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Lt. Governor Polito, MassDOT Secretary Pollack and Highway Administrator Tinlin at the ribbon cutting for the Highway ROW Solar Program Phase IA completion.

Lt. Governor Polito, MassDOT Secretary Pollack and Highway Administrator Tinlin at the ribbon cutting for the Highway ROW Solar Program Phase IA completion.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito this week joined MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, Highway Administrator Tom Tinlin, State Representative Tom Sannicandro, and Ameresco President George Sakellaris to celebrate the completion of the MassDOT Highway Right of Way Solar Photovoltaic Energy Program Phase IA.

This program is building ground-mounted solar PV generation facilities at multiple state-owned properties along the Massachusetts highways. Once built, the ten Phase I sites, with a total capacity of 5.5 MW, are anticipated to generate approximately 7,100,000 kWh of electricity per year, which is enough to power about 1,000 homes in Massachusetts.

MassDOT utilizes a public and private partnership business model for this solar initiative, which requires Ameresco, the private partner, to develop, design, construct, commission, operate and maintain, and decommission the solar facilities at no up-front capital cost for the Commonwealth.

“When a public and private partnership generates savings for the Commonwealth, and produces energy from previously underutilized state land, it is a win-win situation,” said Lt. Governor Polito.

Because the public and private partnership allows the projects to fully utilize federal and state solar incentives, MassDOT was able to negotiate power purchase rates which are significantly lower than the current utility rates.

“MassDOT is happy to be part of the public-private partnership with Ameresco, which will own and operate the solar systems for 20-years under a power purchase agreement,” said Secretary Pollack.

Under the negotiated power purchase rates and the current Massachusetts net metering policy, this program is projected to generate at least $15 million in savings (aggregated cash flow) over the 20-year contract period.

The 271 kW solar farm along I-90 Westbound Natick: one of the first two sites to start production. It has produced about 110 MWh of power since mid-August.

The 271 kW solar farm along I-90 Westbound Natick: one of the first two sites to start production. It has produced about 110 MWh of power since mid-August.

Through this program, multiple solar farms are being installed on otherwise unconstructable state properties within the highway layouts.

“It makes good economic sense to utilize the small parcels of land along highway embankments, exit ramps, and service plazas for rows of ground-mounted solar panels that will benefit all residents in Massachusetts,” said Highway Administrator Tinlin. The State will receive about $2 million in rent payments over the contract period from the developer for leasing state properties.

There are direct financial benefits to the towns where the solar farms are located as well. The facilities are constructed on state land and generating power for a state agency; however, the towns now can collect property tax from the developer since the facilities are owned by a private company.

Environmental benefits of renewable energy generation include zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental benefits of renewable energy generation include zero greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the environmental benefits of renewable energy generation is zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“This solar initiative is just one of MassDOT’s multifaceted efforts to promote sustainability, address climate change and reduce the environmental impact of the department’s operations,” said Secretary Pollack.

The amount of electricity replaced in the current grid with the solar power generated from this program will lead to a CO2 emissions reduction of approximately 6.6 million pounds per year, which is the equivalent of annual greenhouse gas emissions from 630 passenger vehicles.

The five Phase IB sites, located in National Grid’s service areas, are currently under active development for applicable town permits, design completion and departmental review and approval of construction plans. Construction mobilization at these sites is expected to take place in the spring of 2016.

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