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State officials highlight clean energy program at Scituate solar array site

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 16, 2011 01:18 PM

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(From left) Scituate DPW Director Al Bangert talks with MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell and Ronald Kelly, Executive Vice President of Brightfields Development LLC.

State and local officials came out in droves Wednesday to kick-start the Clean Energy Results Program, which seeks to streamline the permitting process for new energy initiatives.

A cooperative effort between the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the program will bring the scientific expertise of both state agencies together to help communities implement green goals.

Officials from both agencies visited Scituate Wednesday, at the site of the new photovoltaic array. Set to go on top of the capped landfill, the array will have more than 12,000 panels, each stretching 6 feet by almost 4 feet, and will generate 4,375,000 killowatt hours of solar energy a year.

The town’s project, and the process by which it took to get here, has become the model for the new program, which seeks to bring Scituate’s momentum to nearby towns.

“We had the vision of getting the DEP involved in energy…but this collaboration was a model for what we want to do statewide,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell.

Although construction on the array won't begin for a few months, officials said the state aid to the town helped cut the waiting time for implementation in half.

It’s an exciting development, and towns such as Chicopee, Dartmouth, and Woburn are all signing on to the program.

In the next few years, officials hope that the streamlined method will help advance the Patrick-Murray Administration’s energy-efficiency goals as a whole, including the installation of at least three anaerobic digestion/combined heat and power projects by 2014, a review of health impacts associated with wind turbines by 2012, and the increase of renewable energy at participating wastewater treatment facilities by 2013.

“We’ve made tremendous progress, but in some ways our progress is being blocked by the permitting,” Kimmell said. “There is local-level anxiety and confusion when there should be clarity and certainty… [As such] we ought to be using our technical expertise to push [these towns] toward better outcomes.”

According to DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia, the push towards this program wouldn’t be possible without Governor Deval Patrick’s focus on renewable energy. Hopefully, this program will eventually become a model for the country, he said.

Scitaute officials were flattered at being a model for other towns, and pointed to the variety of local projects involving green energy, including the wind turbine and Stretch Code implementation.

Yet at the local level, more than just state help, what’s truly necessary is drive.

“Use the town of Scituate…but there are difficulties at the local level too,” said Selectman John Danehey. “Yet we’ve had people with vision at our local level, who think that something can be done to make things better. If you don’t have those people in your town, you won’t get it built.”

Danehey also mentioned that the project wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership with Brightfields Development LLC, which will be constructing the arrays.

Brightfields Development Managing Partner Pete Pedersen noted, “We don’t think green energy belongs on green land. This Scituate landfill is the kind of property that makes sense to us.”

As the numerous officials walked to the top of the landfill cap to get a view of what is to come, EEA Undersecretary for the Energy Barbara Kates-Garnick summed up the day.

“It’s a happy moment to be here, and it’s so exciting,” she said. “This collaboration goes to the next level to allow the administration to meet their goals. It’s the right thing to do at this point in time.”

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