August 15, 2014 - Empower Energies, Inc. announced the completion and commissioning of a 3.7MW solar array in the Town of Shirley, MA. The ground-mounted installation features 13,047 6.5'-by-3' photovoltaic solar panels, situated on 27 acres of Shirley Water District land, providing 20 acres of power production.
The project was co-developed with Washington, DC-based EPG Solar. It will deliver over 4.9 million kWh of electricity annually to the contiguous Devens Utilities Department, significantly increasing the renewable energy contribution to the MassDevelopment subsidiary's energy portfolio. Jim Moore of the Devens Utilities Department noted that Mass Development was originally looking to add renewable energy into their portfolio with facilities built behind their meter, but ultimately opened the bidding up to power supply coming in from outside Devens, 'if someone could work out the details.'
Empower Energies Manager of Business Development Micah Stanley credited the ingenuity of Robert Babcock, a Managing Partner with EPG Solar, and his team, for initiating the project. "His inventiveness enabled us, essentially, to put two separate and distinct projects together, and then enabled us to cross utility grid lines," Stanley said.
"From the beginning, this project has been a model of perseverance and creativity for all of the parties involved," Babcock said. "We worked diligently in cooperation with all of the constituencies – the Town of Shirley Energy Committee, the Water District, and the Devens Utilities Department – to best represent the interests of the people they serve." "(At the Devens Utilities Department) we are grateful as off-takers to be receiving the power from this facility," Moore added.
"It is exciting and humbling to 'flip the switch' after so many moving parts have come together," said Len Jornlin, CEO of Empower Energies. "Projects like this one are characterized by a complex set of transactions, and the collaboration of so many stakeholders. We were thrilled to serve as the hub of all this effort. It enabled us to connect the dots, and help our co-developer, EPG Solar, to get the project over the finish line for Green States Energy and the Town of Shirley."
"What a great fit this is for us," said Stephen Clevett, CEO of Green States Energy. "As an owner and operator of clean electric generation plants, of course it is our objective is to build our asset base. And this project is perfectly scaled for our growth strategy at this particular point in time. But we also want to work with customers and partners who share our values, and are moving forward for the right reasons. We found that here, and we look forward to being part of the Shirley and Devens communities for years to come."
"This facility is the culmination of two years of work involving multiple agencies and municipal entities, with everyone striving toward one common goal: To take care of the residents in the community," said Town of Shirley Energy Committee Chairman Bryan Dumont. "The result is that the Shirley Water District is going to generate revenue which is going to help them offset expenses, and the town is going to do the same thing."
Shirley Energy Committee Secretary Ann Towne expanded on that theme, noting that the solar facility provides a revenue stream to the Water District in the form of a land lease, and to the Town of Shirley in the form of an annual tax payment. "It's a 20-year agreement, with a 10-year renewable option," she said. "We negotiated a contract this past Christmas Eve and, within six months, ‘Voila!' The system is generating power."
And, according to Stanley, because the system is generating clean electricity, it reduces the amount of coal necessary for the production of that same amount of electricity by 3,650,000 lbs. "This is why Governor Patrick's solar and clean energy program is so pertinent," he added. "Because it enables us to offset the carbon-based fuel that we would otherwise be using to produce the electricity that powers our lives."
"Massachusetts is really leading right now, Jornlin said. "From the Patrick Administration to communities like Shirley that are really making it happen, the policy, the political will, the incentives, and the local engagement are all there in Massachusetts."
"We're certain that this (installation) is going to stand as a model for communities across the Commonwealth which are looking to invest in solar projects," noted Meagan Green, District Director for Massachusetts State Representative Jennifer Benson.
Meg Lusardi, Acting Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), agreed. "This installation is a huge achievement," Lusardi said. "As we always like to say at DOER, the best things really do happen at the local level. Shirley was designated as a Green Community in December of 2011. And now we're celebrating the completion of the first installation of a three-phase solar development project. The town of Shirley is definitely doing its part to lead Massachusetts in its clean energy agenda."
"The profile of energy is changing dramatically, and as people have come to understand solar and the other renewable energy technologies that we offer, there are so many ‘win-win' opportunities available at the community level, and beyond," Jornlin concluded. "That is certainly the case in Shirley. This project is a great example of where the town and its citizens, the land owner, the electricity off-taker, and the system owner all benefit, while creating jobs and opportunity right here in their community. We are privileged to have served as the developer on this project, and we look forward to the opportunity to work again with the great team that Shirley has assembled on future phases of this project."