Easthampton is a model small city of the 21st century, fostering innovation with a mill-town soul. As one of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) designated Green Communities, Easthampton has taken great strides towards becoming a clean energy leader in Massachusetts, and with their solar installation, one of the largest and first of its kind in the state, the city is taking advantage of an otherwise unusable landfill resource to add revenue to the municipality’s general fund.
The ground-mounted solar array on top of the Easthampton Landfill covers nearly 16 acres of land that was providing no appreciable benefit to the community. The solar energy system consists of 9,620 Yingli solar modules wired into 740 strings of 13 modules each affixed to Solar Flex Rack systems. Borrego Solar’s engineers were challenged with designing the installation to be grounded on concrete ballast blocks, each weighing 5,000 lbs. The reason for this is, because the protective membrane, or cap, of the landfill could not be penetrated by support beams and structures that are used in traditional ground-mounted solar energy systems. Additionally, structural engineers determined a weight per square foot limitation that dictated the size of the concrete blocks the racking was installed on. This weight restriction required the use of special crane and trucking equipment on the property as well.
The solar PV project, broke ground in September of 2011, and will generate enough power to supply electricity for 20% of the municipal buildings in Easthampton. Under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Borrego Solar, the City will recognize benefits through the purchase of discounted energy. For the duration of the 10 year PPA term, Easthampton will pay $0.06/kWh and has the option to extend the contract, purchase the solar power installation, or have it removed at year 11. The reduced cost per kWh of energy is estimated to save Easthampton over $1.4 million dollars in 10 years, and that’s without making any capital investment upfront.