BOSTON — The state’s largest utilities are pursuing large-scale solar projects as part of an ambitious effort to mitigate the effects of climate change by expanding Massachusetts’ reliance on renewable energy.
A proposal by Eversource calls for a $7.9 million, 1-megawatt solar facility and battery storage system to be built on the site of the company’s former Columbia Gas facility in Lawrence.
The project, pending approval by the state Department of Public Utilities, calls for installing solar canopies over the existing parking lot on Marston Street and using battery storage to store the energy generated and feed it back into the regional power grid. state-run solar program.
Backers of the project say it will produce about 1.1 gigawatt hours of clean energy annually, which will help reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The project is backed by Lawrence officials, who say it will reduce peak energy demand on the power system while providing bill reductions for about 150 customers in “sensitive neighborhoods” and making improvements to an “underutilized” property.
“This project is an important step toward a just transition to clean energy in our city and together,” Mike Armano, director of the city’s Department of Inspectional Services, said in a letter to DPU regulators.
Another proposed Eversource solar project calls for building a 1.98-megawatt array at the company’s gas operations center in Brockton, which would include a battery storage component. The cost of the project is estimated to be more than 10.7 million dollars.
Eversource said it chose Lawrence and Brockton for the projects because they are “environmental justice” communities that have not traditionally benefited from the state’s solar programs.
But the projects, both of which will be built on Eversource-owned sites, will also benefit the company by providing a backup power source for its operations in those communities.
In filings with the DPU, Eversource officials said both facilities are “critical to the safe and reliable operation of our natural gas systems” and said the solar power and battery storage would offset the use of gas-fired backup generators and allow operations to continue. during a major power outage.
“When operating during an outage, the systems will provide power directly to the facilities, allowing the facility to reduce the workload of the facility’s existing fossil fuel generators,” company officials wrote in a recent filing with state regulators.
Meanwhile, the company’s customers can ultimately foot the bill for both projects at a fraction of the cost.
Eversource says it will seek base rate adjustments to cover the costs of the projects, but they won’t require regulatory approval until after 2028, the company said in filings. The company said part of the costs for both projects would be offset by selling renewable energy back into the grid.
Both projects must be approved by the DPU, which is holding public hearings on the proposals in the next few weeks.
The law, signed by Gov. Charlie Baker, requires the state to reduce carbon emissions to at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2030 and 75% of 1990 levels by 2040.
The legislation requires the state to meet several benchmarks over the next three decades, effectively updating the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008.
Proponents of the changes say the ultimate goal is to bring the state to 100% below 1990 levels, or “net zero,” by 2050.
In addition to expanding solar power, the plan calls for higher efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances, the development of offshore wind and expanded use of solar energy, and new emission limits on electricity, transportation and commercial heating and cooling systems.
Several utilities, including Eversource and National Grid, are testing geothermal systems to determine if a more widely used renewable energy source could help reduce the state’s reliance on natural gas and oil to heat homes in Massachusetts.
Christian M. Wade covers the Boston Media Group’s northern Massachusetts newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected].