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NRTHEAST UTL : WMECo Solar Energy Plan for Western Massachusetts Receives Approval from Massachusetts DPU

08/12/2009 | 04:25pm US/Eastern

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Aug. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) today becomes the first utility in New England to receive approval to build large scale solar energy facilities in its service territory, under a decision issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU). Up to six megawatts (MW) of solar facilities will be built - enough to power 6,000 homes.

"This decision gives us the framework to move forward and we're very excited about the opportunity to begin development of lowest cost large scale solar energy for our electric customers and the Commonwealth," said Peter J. Clarke, President and Chief Operating Officer of WMECo.

"The support for WMECo's solar plan from the DPU, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Attorney General's office means the state will take a major step toward fulfillment of the Commonwealth's goals under the Green Communities Act to develop 250 MW of installed solar by 2017," Clarke said.

Under the Green Communities Act, WMECo is allowed to own up to 50 MW of solar facilities.

In June, WMECo and the Attorney General reached an agreement on the company's plans to develop a solar energy program for its service territory. That agreement was approved in today's decision by the DPU. Under the agreement, WMECo will focus exclusively on facilities larger than 200 kilowatts (kW) to achieve economies of scale and deliver the most cost effective product for customers. The scope of the program will be six MW, with no more than three MW constructed in any single year.

"By taking a progressive approach to large scale solar development, we will be able to help the state answer key questions important to broad deployment of solar energy to serve larger populations," Clarke noted.

WMECo's plan focuses on developing solar capacity on landfill, brownfield, city-owned and utility-owned sites located in the Springfield and Pittsfield areas. Under the DPU decision, WMECo will now move forward to issue a request for proposal for the first 3 MW of facilities in September and hopes to complete site and vendor selections in the fourth quarter. Construction of the first project is expected to be completed in 2010.

"WMECo is fully committed to helping the Commonwealth meet its aggressive policy goals for the development of large-scale solar energy that will help the state reduce its carbon emissions and diversify its energy sources away from fossil fuels," Peter Clarke said.

Reaching the state's goal of 250 MW of installed solar capacity will require additional efforts to increase the number and size of solar installations, and the rate at which they are developed. On July 16, The Commonwealth's energy policy officials and the Attorney General directed WMECo and other electric utilities to work together on developing a statewide pooling concept for solar development to further maximize the benefits of solar while also driving down costs through economies of scale. WMECo, along with the state's other three utilities, is an active participant in these efforts.

Western Massachusetts Electric Company, part of the Northeast Utilities System (NYSE: NU), serves approximately 200,000 customers in 59 communities throughout western Massachusetts and is committed to the environment, economic development and the health of the communities it serves. For more information about WMECo, visit their Web site at www.wmeco.com.

SOURCE Western Massachusetts Electric Company

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