Massachusetts City Leads by Example with 1.8-MW Brownfield Solar Project

Today government officials commissioned a 1.8-MW solar project on what is classified as a “superfund” site — an abandoned plot of land that harbored hazardous waste affecting the environment and population — in New Bedford, an economically depressed coastal city in southeastern Massachusetts. What was once a toxic lot is now a shining example of how renewable energy can transform the environment and local economies, according to government officials at today’s dedication.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stand near the 1.8-MW Sullivan’s Ledge superfund solar project in New Bedford, Mass.

The Sullivan’s Ledge site is now 10 acres of remediated land, which houses more than 5,000 panels that will save the city more than $2.7 million dollars over the course of 20 years. SunEdison and Boston-based BlueWave Capital provided panels and EPC services, and this marked their third project in the city. 

Sullivan’s Ledge adds to the more than 16 MW of solar installed or under construction in New Bedford, which is now ranked number two for installing the most solar per capita behind Honolulu, Hawaii, and number two for installing the most MW on the U.S. east coast behind New York City. New Bedford now purchases 50 percent of its energy needs from solar, and expects to reach its long-term goal of 60 percent by the end of this year.

“This marks a huge step forward for New Bedford to reduce city electric costs, save tax payers millions and add clean energy to our contaminated sites,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “We are showing leadership through our renewable energy programs, and now other cities are asking us how to do it.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was also there to dedicate the project, expressing the importance of local projects and environmental benefits of transforming brownfields with renewable energy. She said that these local-level projects are what will move clean energy forward and help tackle climate change – the most important issue the world faces today.

“People always ask how we can turn these challenging sites into opportunities,” said McCarthy. “These projects convince people that we just can’t sit and do nothing. This is how we will move clean energy forward in this country – one small site at a time.”

Solar projects have provided huge benefits for the city, explained Deputy Commissioner of the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection David Cash. “This project has paid for local SunEdison employee paychecks and helps local school and police departments to save money on their bills, which allows them to hire more people,” said Cash. “What Mayor would not want to save $100,000 a year — solar is a no-brainer.”

Not only is New Bedford leading in solar, but city officials also worked to redevelop its port to become the nation’s first offshore wind distribution hub. Mitchell announced that the city won the bid to provide services for the Cape Wind project, which is the first U.S. offshore wind project to start construction next year.

“Together, we’ve turned lemons into lemonade,” said Mitchell, “and we should all be proud of that.”

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Former editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com. I hold a MA in Professional Writing and BA in English from the University of Massachusetts and a certificate in Professional Communications: Writing from Emerson College.

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