Solar Builder Project of the Year C&I: Worcester Greenwood Landfill

Worcester Greenwood Landfill

How’s this for timing: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt made headlines, as we were writing this, for proudly proclaiming that he would get rid of the tax credits for the solar industry. Let that marinate as we tout the virtues of our Commercial & Industrial Project of the Year Award winner.

Developer: Honeywell • Contractor: Borrego Solar Systems • Modules: LG Electronics • Inverter: SunGrow • Mounting: SunLink

Stretching across 25 acres (19 football fields), the Greenwood Street Solar Array is the largest municipally owned landfill project in New England. The city signed an energy savings performance contract with Honeywell in 2011 that targeted to bring renewable energy to 92 city-owned facilities, and this $27 million project is expected to pay for itself in six years and save the city $60 million over its expected 30-year life span. It will produce enough clean energy to power 1,340 homes per year.

Because the solar array is municipally owned, it allows Worcester to sell the electricity at net-metering rates. The city also paired this project with an initiative to replace 14,000 street lights with LED bulbs to reduce energy demands while also infusing renewable capacity.

Tough to argue against that value to the city, but then consider the land used for the project was a landfill — an unusable swath of earth; a blight on the community — that is now actively being used to power homes. In order to protect the integrity of the landfill cap, SunLink and Borrego worked closely together to ensure that loads superimposed by the array will not exceed allowable limits at any time, including heavy snow and wind events. SunLink’s GeoPro systems come with terrain adjustability designed in, allowing the array to easily adapt to existing site conditions without grading work.

“The next time you hear someone say, ‘what are we doing for the taxpayers,’ tell them to look up on the old Greenwood Street landfill,” said City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. at the ribbon cutting.

Or, as Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty summed it up: “This project makes good environmental sense and fiscal sense. It’s just one of the ways we as a city are planning for decades to come.”

Anyway, we’d be curious to know how the head of our environment’s protection would object to incentivizing more projects like Worcester Greenwood Landfill.