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New (Mass) state entity will oversee utility-scale solar projects

by Erin Ailworth July 16, 2009
Source: Green Blog, Boston Globe

A new state entity will work with the four investor-owned utilities in Massachusetts to develop large-scale solar power installations, state officials announced Thursday.  “Development of solar generation through a statewide pool will drive down costs through economies of scale and spread the costs and benefits across the broadest base of customers,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley wrote in a statement announcing that her office would be working with Governor Deval Patrick’s office on the effort.

Under the Green Communities Act of 2008, National Grid, NStar, Unitil Corp. and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. can own solar-generating facilities, and have until the end of 2012 to develop up to 50 megawatts each of solar generating capacity. The governor has set a goal to have 250 megawatts of solar generating capacity installed in Massachusetts by 2017.

State officials said they decided to create a new entity to oversee the utilities’ solar efforts because of the disparities they saw among the companies’ geographic coverage areas and customer bases. Those officials worried that such disparities would make it difficult to keep solar projects cost competitive while also ensuring that as many customers as possible could take advantage of energy generated by solar installations.

The new entity will indentify sites for solar installations and then develop cost-competitive projects.  Western Mass. Electric, which serves about 210,000 customers, meanwhile, already has plans to develop six megawatts of solar capacity, but has said it will work with the statewide entity when it comes into being.