By Dan McDonald
The New Bedford Business Park could be home to what would be one of the largest solar panel fields in New England before the end of the year.
Con Edison Development wants to install 7,000 solar panels, which would cover about 10 acres on the south end of the park, off Samuel Barnet Boulevard and Flaherty Drive.
The installation, according to Tom Davis, executive director of the Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation, would be the largest solar facility in New England, more than double the size of a 3.5-acre array in Brockton. The company could not confirm that it would be the region’s largest such solar panel operation.
The proposal, which will go before the Conservation Commission and the Select Board this summer, would produce the equivalent of 2 megawatts of electricity, or enough energy to provide power to 2,000 households.
The proposed site, located near an existing energy grid, would feature crystalline silicon solar cells, a technology that has been used for more than three decades.
George Germano, the company’s director of engineering and assessment management, hopes to start construction by September or October and finish the project by the end of this year. During construction, Germano says the project will employ 10 to 20 people.
Germano declined to say how much the project would cost. He also said his company plans to buy the site but has not yet done so.
The project would help Massachusetts utilities meet the goals of the state’s Green Communities Act. The act, signed into law in 2008, allows utility companies to enter into contracts with renewable energy developers. Utilities have a statutory obligation to increase their use of non-polluting, renewable energy supplies. The state’s goal is for solar energy to produce 250 megawatts of power by 2017.
In a statement, the company says the project would be “virtually invisible to vehicular or pedestrian traffic outside the business complex.”
Select Board Chairman Bill Trimble, who supports the idea, agreed, saying the initiative would be a “fairly innocuous use of the site.”
The panels, which are usually 3 feet by 6 feet, “are low to the ground, so I can’t see it being a problem with any neighbors,” he said.
Trimble said he supports the project because “we need to use renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gases, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and offshore drilling.”
Trimble’s fellow Select Board member, Joseph Michaud, said he also backs the project and thinks it will be approved.
“I have no doubt there will be overwhelming support,” he said. “We expect people are going to be very positive about this.”
Davis said the proposal is a problem-free project and that the initiative would constitute “another piece of the puzzle” for the business park, which he said has attracted a handful of renewable energy companies since the onset of the recession.
Con Edison is also “seriously looking at Energy Park” in Dartmouth for another project, Davis said. Germano acknowledged the company was considering an additional location there.
Con Edison Development is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Inc., which is one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies, with about $13 billion in annual revenues and $34 billion in assets. The utility provides electric, gas and steam service to more than 3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y.
The Select Board and Conservation Commission must approve the project. The Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing on the matter June 22, and the Select Board will hold a public hearing July 12, according to Con Edison.
June 16, 2010 12:00 AM
By Dan McDonald