EARTH DAY OP-ED: Worcester's Solar-on-Landfill Project, a Creative Clean Energy Solution
From the desk of: Martin Suuberg
The challenge of climate change requires thinking outside the box to come up with solutions that work for our communities. This Earth Day, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is celebrating innovative thinking and partnerships - like that on display in the City of Worcester - that have enabled our Commonwealth to make important progress in combatting climate change and leading the nation in clean energy innovation.
In 1986, the City of Worcester closed and capped the 52-acre Greenwood Street landfill. Since that time, the city has worked to maintain the site, but also thought creatively about putting it back into productive reuse. In early 2015, the city approached MassDEP with a unique proposal to install solar panels on top of the landfill.
As a result of the city's vision for this former solid waste disposal facility, and with assistance from MassDEP and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), Greenwood Street landfill is about to become one of the state's largest renewable energy producers. The power generation set to come online will offset approximately $2 million in annual electricity costs for Worcester.
Massachusetts has set ambitious goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Green Communities Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower our energy dependence on fossil fuels and greatly diversify our energy resources. In order to build a more resilient Commonwealth, Governor Baker issued an executive order laying out a comprehensive approach to prepare for and combat climate change. Governor Baker has also set an aggressive goal of reaching 1,600 megawatts of installed solar energy by 2020. With projects like Greenwood Street in the mix, this goal is close to being realized. As of last month, 1,488 megawatts of solar capacity has been achieved, putting the goal well within reach - years early.
These types of renewable energy success stories could not have been achieved without local officials - like the leaders in Worcester - who saw a new way of doing things by reclaiming land that was once considered unavailable for productive use. They have partnered with MassDEP, DOER and other agencies to develop plans to place solar panels on sites - like the Greenwood Street landfill - that sat unused, but now reap the benefits of reduced energy costs and clean energy. These once-forgotten parcels are today helping us set a new path toward clean energy in our communities.
Martin Suuberg is Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
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