City Welcomes First Rooftop Solar Installation

(picture above taken by Jeff Byrnes)

The first commercial rooftop solar project in the City of Holyoke began operations in Holyoke this week at the Expressive Design Group facilities located at 49 Garfield Street in Holyoke.  With 3,762 panels occupying more than 4 acres of roof space, the installation has almost 1 Megawatt (MW) of generation capacity.

The investment of more than $2,000,000 was part of a Power Purchase Agreement between the Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) and Healthy Planet Partners (HPP), where the utility provider will buy the output from HPP to power up to 200 homes a year. C-TEC Solar was the installer and project manager for the installation. As part of the arrangement, the building owners, who also run the design and manufacturing business Expressive Design Group, will receive lease payments for the rooftop use.

“Through its Power Purchase Agreement with Healthy Planet Partners, this project will add additional renewable energy to HG&E’s portfolio and will help HG&E continue to maintain some of the lowest electric rates in the region and one of the smallest carbon footprints for an electric distribution company in the region” said James Lavelle, director of the Holyoke Gas and Electric, during a site visit on Tuesday, October 20 along with City and business officials.

To make the project financially viable, the City negotiated a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with HPP. “This is a prime example of the private and public partnerships that can benefit our economy, our environment and our community,” Mayor Alex Morse said. “As Holyoke continues to distinguish itself as a leader in renewable energy efforts, I thank all parties involved for their commitment and investments in Holyoke in what should be the first of many similar installations. Starting next year, we expect to launch a Renewable Energy Development fund which will provide a monetary incentive for these types of rooftop solar installations. This will not only offer us the opportunity to increase the availability of our low-cost, renewable energy, but also provide an income stream to building owners.”

“The benefits of rooftop solar and energy production extend well beyond where the installation is located,” Marcos Marrero, Director of Planning & Economic Development said. “There are plenty of opportunities for similar installations throughout Holyoke, which could become valuable income streams for businesses and building owners to be reinvested in their property, businesses or employees. To that end, we’ve been designing a Renewable Energy Development program along with the Massachusetts Energy Extension Initiative at UMass Amherst and expect it to be ready for launch during the spring months.”

“This project contributes to RICAR LLC’s commitment to do its part in reducing its carbon impact and making Holyoke a greener place,” said Rita Milos of RICAR LLC Real Estate Partnership that owns 49 Garfield Street, where the installation is located. “We are proud to be a part of helping Holyoke reach its goal of being a leader in green energy. We would especially like to thank Holyoke Gas and Electric, the City of Holyoke and Mayor Alex Morse for their help in making this project a reality.”  The building is home to Expressive Design Group, a design and manufacturing business for greeting cards. The panels will occupy about 75% of the total roof space, generating approximately 1,196.32 Meggawatt Hours (MWh) per year.

The Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is a long-term contract between HG&E and HPP under which HG&E will purchase all of the power generated by the solar facility at an agreed-upon rate. The City’s negotiated PILOT agreement provides it with $5,000 annually for twenty years, and was based on the amount of energy generated each year.  As most private installations, this one was further supported by the 30% federal investment tax credit, as well as a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) incentive from the State.