New Bedford closing in on solar deal

By Charis Anderson

NEW BEDFORD — The city is in the final stages of negotiations with a Boston-based developer to install up to 10 megawatts of solar energy capacity on municipal buildings over the next several years.

“The intent is to make New Bedford the leading solar city in the country, not just municipally, but in time to move into the residential and commercial sectors as well,” said Scott Durkee, the city’s energy director. “The potential scale of this will blow everyone away.”

Under the terms laid out in a request for qualifications issued by the city last summer, BlueWave Capital will install, own, operate and maintain the solar energy systems while the city will purchase the electricity generated by the systems at an agreed upon rate.
“We’ve gone into this in a way that will establish us as a leader in this area,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang.

BlueWave, which will be working with Consolidated Edison Solutions, TRC Cos. and local companies Alteris Renewables and Beaumont Solar, was selected from a pool of nine developers that responded to the RFQ.

The city and BlueWave are still negotiating a power purchase agreement, but Durkee said he hoped to have all the financial and legal negotiations completed by mid-February.

If the parties cannot reach agreement on a price for the electricity, the city can walk away from the deal, Durkee said.
“Working with the city we have the potential to dramatically reduce energy costs across the city and achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said John DeVillars, managing partner of BlueWave.

While the first phase of the project will focus on municipal buildings — New Bedford High School, police headquarters and the capped closed landfill are among the sites listed in the RFQ, although feasibility studies are needed for all locations before any siting decisions are made — both BlueWave and the city hope eventually to expand the project to commercial and residential buildings as well.

“It will afford New Bedford businesses, institutions and homeowners the same opportunity afforded to the city, namely reduced energy costs with no upfront capital expenditure,” DeVillars said.

“This is, to my knowledge, a first-in-the-nation effort to integrate municipal, commercial and residential solar activities and to provide central leadership and coordinated management.”

Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said the solar project would help solidify New Bedford’s position within the cleantech sector.

“As we seek to attract other renewable energy companies for employment opportunities, having such an aggressive solar program plays an important role in telling our story about the city’s support for alternative energy solutions,” he said.
January 25, 2011 12:00 AM

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