MWDN: Hopkinton shows off new solar panels
November 3, 2009
By Kendall Hatch, The MetroWest Daily News
HOPKINTON — School, town and state officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday at the high school to unveil the town’s recently completed solar energy system, the first of its kind in the state.
The 1,800 panels, which sit atop the high school, middle school and the police and fire stations, are expected to provide about 15 percent of the energy needed to power the schools, said Andrew Reed, an energy consultant at Borrego Solar of Lowell, which designed and installed the panels.
Officials said the 325-kilowatt system could save the district $25,000 annually in energy costs.
“Hopkinton is ahead of the curve of most communities,” said state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland. “We’re saving the town money, thereby saving the residents money.”
Hopkinton is the first town in Massachusetts to install solar panels on multiple municipal buildings.
“There is a lot of discussion and a lot of lip service given to these opportunities,” said state Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston. “Hopkinton has set the stage with looking at this type of model. … There are very few towns and groups that are able to make this happen, and Hopkinton was one of them.”
The project began last year as an idea by Brian Main, the town’s facilities director. It had to be postponed after tax credits for renewable energy spending were cut during the economic collapse last fall.
The town found a solution in a third-party ownership model for the panels – they are owned by Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit organization which invests in community development projects.
The project was financed by the organization. The town, in turn, purchases the energy yielded from the panels at a reduced rate. Borrego Solar and Boston Community Capital take advantage of tax credits not available to municipalities.
Elyse Cherry, CEO of Boston Community Capital, which is becoming one of the biggest owners of solar panels in the state, said the new system is sending an important message to students who will be directly using the energy produced by the new system.
“I really want to salute Hopkinton for forward thinking in respect to this project,” she said. “You are setting an example for the kids of Hopkinton. … This becomes a part of everybody’s thinking as they move through high school and college and into leadership positions.”
Town officials also announced yesterday the debut of a new rebate program offered to Hopkinton residents. Any homeowner who opts to have solar panels installed by Vermont-based GroSolar will be eligible for a $500 rebate.
As part of the new project, an energy kiosk was installed in the entranceway of the high school displaying how much energy is being produced by the panels. The kiosk shows output for the entire region or a user can hone in on one of the four buildings to see energy production levels.
The kiosk displays output in yearly, monthly or weekly increments in a user-friendly way. For instance, a person can see how many days a family home would be powered, how many miles could be traveled in a car or how many hours a compact fluorescent light bulb could be powered by the panels.
Catherine Leonard, 17, a member of the high school’s Environmental Club, said she hoped the move by Hopkinton would spur other towns and cities into action.
“Because of this, we will pave the way for other areas in Massachusetts and everywhere else to go green,” she said. “We know that every little thing we can do to help our planet helps. Everything we do, big or small, brings us closer to being a sustainable community.”
(Kendall Hatch can be reached at 508-626-4429 or email@example.com.)