New Bedford's planned solar foray hailed as 'model for the country'

By Dan McDonald
NEW BEDFORD — Dignitaries celebrated what they touted as a first-in-the-state kind of municipal solar initiative Friday.
The program, which includes installation of solar panels on school buildings and public locations throughout New Bedford, could save the city $10 million by 2033 and produce enough power to run about 1,500 homes, according to the city.
Consolidated Edison Solutions plans to first install solar panels on Keith Middle School, Normandin Middle School, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, the Department of Public Infrastructure building on Shawmut Avenue and the Hillman Street Gymnasium and Community Center.
ConEdison is looking to expand the program. It has an agreement to install enough solar panels to produce 10 megawatts of renewable energy, and the first five locations will not produce anywhere near that amount of energy, said Jorge Lopez, CEO of the company. The company is in the process of reviewing other sites.
All installations are expected to be operational by 2013 but some may come online sometime next year.
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., speaking before a crowd of dozens on a stage set up in front of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, hailed the program as a “model for the country.”
“I hope the rest of the country pays attention,” said Frank. “This is a clear example of New Bedford refuting a lot of the negativism we deal with and showing that you can pull together things that are good for the city, good for the environment and good for the economy.
“That makes it a pretty good day,” he said.
The initial investment for the project is about $2 million, said Lopez, none of which is coming from the city.
“We will make the initial investment, own the investment and the assets,” said Lopez.
The city and ConEdison have already reached a power purchase agreement, he said.
Mayor Scott W. Lang, speaking to the crowd on Purchase Street, which had been shut down for the weekend-long Bioneers conference, said: “This is hometown America getting back to a situation where we’re creating a clean energy source, providing jobs for our country, providing jobs for our community.”
John DeVillars, former New England administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a managing partner of Blue Wave Capital, which is a business partner of ConEdison, said New Bedford is now “one of the very few handful of cities in this country that has embraced sustainability and smart energy policy.”
October 22, 2011 12:00 AM
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