Syncarpha Capital, Borrego Solar, and Renewable Energy Massachusetts (REM) announced the completion of a 6 megawatt (MW) solar array located on the former Palmer Metropolitan Airfield in Palmer, Mass.
The Palmer Airfield project is unique in that it is both the first and, at 6 MW, the largest Department of Energy Resources (DOER) qualified brownfield project under the Massachusetts SREC II solar energy incentive program. The DOER’s predecessor program, SREC I, was successful in encouraging solar development in Massachusetts through 2013, however much of it occurred on greenfields. The DOER, with key stakeholders’ input, pointed out that the program should incentivize more development of solar on landfills and brownfields. Thus the SREC II program was designed to promote the positive re-use of sites cleaned up under Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection supervision.
The Palmer Airfield project, which was cleaned up after 75 years of airfield operations dating back to the 1920s, is a perfect example of what SREC II was designed to achieve as far as siting large-scale solar at appropriate locations around the Commonwealth.
There are multiple entities directly benefitting from this project. The Town of Palmer, a designated Green Community, will be receiving real and personal property tax revenue of approximately $2 million over the 20 year project term. Three public entities – the Town of Leicester, the Town of Spencer, and Worcester State University, will together purchase all of the net metering credits from the energy generated by the project, which will result in millions of dollars in energy savings for these entities over the 20 year terms of the energy agreements. Finally, the land owner, JenJill LLC of Wilbraham, Mass., which purchased the site and paid for its cleanup, will benefit from the long-term ground lease.
Borrego Solar—a major developer, designer, installer and O&M provider of grid-tied solar energy systems—built the array and negotiated and finalized off-taker agreements with the Town of Leicester and the Town of Spencer.
“This project is an economic and environmental success for so many parties: it benefits the Airfield site owners, the Town of Palmer, the three energy off-takers, the project development partners, and the local contractors who built it,” said Zak Farkes, project developer at Borrego Solar. “The economic impact alone is impressive, but also consider the fact that this project will offset more than 4,000 metric tons1 of carbon dioxide annually, and supply enough clean electricity for roughly 1,000 homes1. It’s clear that beneficial projects like the Palmer Airfield need to be replicated throughout the Commonwealth.”
Starting in March 2014, when REM first walked the site with the landowner, it anticipated a great re-use of a dormant site. REM, with assistance from Syncarpha Capital, gained site control and negotiated the lease with the landowner, performed all project development functions including permitting, initiated the National Grid interconnection process, cemented Worcester State University as a key energy off-taker, and secured the DOER’s SREC II Brownfield Qualification designation for the site, the first such designation in Massachusetts.
“We are proud of what has been accomplished at the Airfield property and how much good has come out of this project,” said Brian Kopperl, managing partner of REM. “National Grid in particular has been a pleasure to work with throughout this process, and their local customers will benefit from the grid and substation upgrades that were paid for by the project, thereby increasing grid reliability and providing clean solar energy to National Grid for the next 30 years that will help satisfy their obligations under the Green Communities Act of 2008.”