From Polluted Past to Solar Energy Champs

Situated on top of 100 years of coal ash, the largest solar energy system in New England is now a shining example of how one industrial community turned unwanted wasteland into an economic, educational and environmental asset.

The recently completed Brockton Brightfield is a 425-kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) solar energy system located on a 3.7 acre environmentally remediate “brownfield” in Brockton, Massachusetts. The 1,395 solar panels will generate an estimated 535 Megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity annually. Long known as the “City of Champions” for its successful sports teams, the $3 million system is the largest installed capacity of photovoltaic solar power in the Commonwealth – and the largest “brightfield” in the nation — establishing Brockton as the state’s new solar champion. “Renewable Energy is gathering tremendous momentum here in Massachusetts and in New England. And one of the important aspects of this particular project is that it’s a tremendous symbol of that momentum. It’s a visible symbol, it’s an important symbol, and it’s one that we’re going to see have a lot of educational and public visibility ripple effects across the state,” said Dr. Warren Leon, director of the Renewable Energy Trust at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, during a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at the site on October 26. Built by Global Solar Inc., the Brockton Brightfield features 1,395 SCHOTT Solar ASE 300 modules and Fat Spaniel monitoring technology. Funding for the $3.07 million project was supplied by a $1.6 million city bond, $789,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and more than $1 million from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Renewable Energy Trust. “The Brockton Brightfield was built thanks to an extraordinary partnership between government agencies, nonprofit organizations and businesses,” said Brockton Mayor James Harrington. “We hope that Brockton’s success in bringing this project to fruition will inspire other communities across the nation to turn their brownfields into clean solar energy generating brightfields as well.” Bay State Gas Company cleaned up the environmentally contaminated site, formerly part of the Brockton Gas Light Company’s gas works, throughout the 1990s up to 2004. Although the brownfield currently poses no threat to the community, a cap that seals in hazardous materials located on the brownfield severely limited development options for the property. The city expects to secure more than $130,000 in annual revenue from the once defunct site by selling the electricity and Renewable Energy Credits generated at the site to a competitive electricity supplier. These revenues will be used to pay debt service on the bond and cover the brightfield’s operations and maintenance costs. The site will also be used as an educational tool with displays that enable students to read about how photovoltaic solar energy works and touch a solar module. The Brockton city school district intends to incorporate the site into their lesson plans, and expects that surrounding school districts will use field trips to the Brockton Brightfield learning plaza to help teach students more about pollution and renewable energy. Eventually the city plans to increase the Brockton Brightfield’s capacity to approximately 1.2 megawatts (MW) by expanding the solar energy power plant to an associated brownfield across the street. But according to former Brockton mayor Jack Yunis, because of limited funding, construction will not begin on phase two of the Brockton Brightfield for another five years.
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