U.S. Department of Energy

    Western Massachusetts Electric Company Files Large-Scale Solar Energy Plan

    February 16, 2009

    Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) announced February 12 that it has submitted a solar energy plan to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. The plan would implement large-scale solar installations that could begin generating power by 2010. The sale of renewable energy credits would help pay for the program.

    Under Massachusetts' Green Communities Act, which was passed in 2008, electricity distribution companies such as WMECO must help meet the state's solar energy goal of developing 250 megawatts (MW) of solar installations by 2017. The act allows WMECO, which serves about 200,000 customers in western Massachusetts, to own solar facilities with a combined total of 50 MW.

    The WMECO program aims to answer key questions about scaling up solar operations to serve large populations. The program will explore:

    • How solar facilities can connect to the grid most efficiently
    • The role smart grid technologies will play in the use of solar power
    • How utilities should work with local component manufacturers and installers of solar equipment.

    The company says it will apply lessons learned to other distributed renewable technologies, including wind and biomass.

    WMECO will help offset the program's costs by selling the electricity generated by the solar arrays and selling renewable energy credits. The company would also use grants and other incentives to help pay for the program. If approved, the program is expected to cost less than $1 per month for an average residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours per month.

    The first phase of the plan identifies eight sites for potential solar facilities. These sites are slated to provide 6 MW of solar capacity at a total cost of approximately $42 million. By adding more sites between 2010 and 2012, WMECO's solar capacity could expand to 15 MW. Beyond 2012, WMECO could expand the number of sites to reach 50 MW.

    "I am pleased to see WMECO stepping forward to take advantage of this new opportunity to contribute toward Governor Patrick's solar energy goal," said Philip Giudice, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. "This proposal for utility-owned solar power promises clean, renewable energy for WMECO customers and a greener energy future for the Commonwealth."

    For more information, including a list of the eight possible sites for solar facilities, see the WMECO February 12 press release.

    To read more about renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Massachusetts, see: