Northampton solar landfill a ‘dream come true,’ says Ward 6 city councilor at ribbon-cutting
NORTHAMPTON — Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne LaBarge said she remembers when the city’s landfill shut down in 2013, ending a years-long effort by her constituents to block its expansion.
On Wednesday, as Mayor David Narkewicz cut the ribbon on a 15-acre, 3.17-megawatt solar array on the capped facility, LaBarge said the use represents all she could have hoped for.”
There’s no traffic, no smells, we’re making clean energy, and saving money,” she said. “We fought to close that landfill, and the Ward 6 Neighborhood Association recommended solar. This is like a dream come true.”
Narkewicz launched the solar facility Wednesday, joined by city officials and representatives from Ameresco, the Framingham company with a 20-year lease to own and operate the power-generating installation.
The 9,920 panels are expected to produce the equivalent of 45 percent of the power used by municipal buildings, said Narkewicz, saving $250,000 in city energy costs in year one, and $7.5 million over 20 years.”
In terms of the greenhouse gas impact, it’s the equivalent of taking 444 homes off the grid, or 634 vehicles off the road,” said Narkewicz.
Joel Lindsay, director of solar development for Ameresco, said the city will pay the company for the electricity, and earn net metering credits from National Grid. The credits can be applied to various city utility accounts. Ameresco will retain control of the facility’s solar renewable energy credits, entities which are traded within a dynamic market.
The project qualified for the credits, known as SRECs, because it reached mechanical completion by Jan. 8, said Lindsay. The SRECs are being replaced in 2018 by a different state-run solar incentive program.
Narkewicz praised Chris Mason, the city’s energy and sustainability officer, saying the project would not have been possible without his diligence. Department of Public Works Director Donna LaScaleia is making sure the facility complies with all environmental regulations, he said.
Narkewicz said the project was initially delayed because of state limits on how much solar power utilities must buy. The “net metering caps” had stalled commercial and public solar plans. Municipalities lobbied Beacon Hill to “lift the cap,” and a compromise solar incentive bill was passed in 2016.
Lindsay said Ameresco has had a “good, positive experience” working with Northampton. Narkewicz said Ameresco was chosen from 12 bidders.
The solar facility is divided into two parts — 2.5 megawatts on the capped landfill, and around three-quarters of a megawatt on an adjacent parcel.