From: The Alternative Consumer
Published February 17, 2009 09:39 AM

solar energy coming to Massachusetts

Being from temperate, often “partly cloudy”Ě Massachusetts, I’ve often pondered the practical viability of solar power generation in New England.¬† No vast deserts to provide mile upon mile of non-arable, sun-drenched land upon which to build massive solar power installations and a climate that, though¬†beautiful, doesn’t immediately conjure up a landscape speckled with solar panels.

Well, perhaps necessity and a government mandate will overcome the challenges presented by climactic conditions and land availability to get renewable solar energy flowing in my native Bay State.¬†¬†Just this weekWestern Massachusetts Electric Company¬†(WMECO) announced that it filed a plan to implement an integrated, large-scale solar energy program with the Department of Public Utilities. ¬† The solar installations, to be located in WMECO’s western Mass service area, could begin generating eco friendly, renewable power from photovoltaic (PV) facilities as early as 2010.

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Massachusetts’ 2008¬†Green Communities Act¬†authorizes electric distribution companies like WMECO, to contribute to the development of 250 megawatts of installed solar by 2017.¬† Under the act, WMECO is allowed to own up to 50 mega watts of solar facilities.

The challenge for this heavily populated, northeastern state is:  where do you place a sea of solar cells?  The answer appears to be a combination of:  public rooftops like schools and municipal buildings; landfills and other non-usable land; utility properties, and a variety of undeveloped acreage.  Companies like Solutia, the Big E and The Springfield Republican are also volunteering to get involved in the pilot project.

Hopefully, future innovations in photovoltaic technology and solar panel design will help mitigate land use and climate restrictions, and make New England a major consumer of cost-effective renewable energy.

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