Northampton goes live with solar array

  • Northampton’s new solar array atop the closed Glendale Road landfill. GAZETTE STAFF/Bera Dunau

Thursday, November 16, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — A new solar array atop the closed landfill off Glendale Road is officially generating power for the city, a key development that officials tout as good for the environment and for the city’s coffers.

The 3.17-megawatt, 9,899-module array, which went online last week, is expected to save the city $8 million over the next 20 years, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the city.

“It’s now officially generating,” Mayor David J. Narkewicz said during a Wednesday commemoration that included a green ribbon being cut by a giant pair of green-handled scissors.

“This is the quickest we could pull it all together,” Narkewicz said, noting that the city picked the perfect day as far as the weather was concerned.

The city hired Ameresco to last year to design and build the array.

“We’ve done at least 30,” said Ameresco’s Joel Lindsay, speaking of the number of solar projects on landfills Ameresco has built.

Under its agreement with the city, Ameresco will sell electricity to the city for 20 years, and Northampton is expected to save more than $8 million in energy costs over this period, according to the city.

Ameresco won the contract after a competitive bidding process that attracted 12 participants.

Under the agreement, in addition to maintaining the landfill array, Ameresco will also maintain a small solar array at Florence Fields.

The annual greenhouse gas emission reductions from the array is the same as eliminating electric use from 444 homes or taking 634 passenger vehicles off the road, according to a release from the city.

The city also said that the array is expected to generate more than 4 million kilowatt-hours in its first year, which it said is about 45 percent of the city’s municipal electric use.

The municipal solar array will also have an educational component for local schools.

Ward 6 Councilor Marianne LaBarge, who has the former Glendale Road landfill in her district, was beaming following the dedication.

“Our dream has come true,” she said. “I think this is great.”

LaBarge successfully pushed to have the landfill closed, and she said that the Ward 6 Neighborhood Association advocated for solar on the site following the landfill’s closing.