New England's Largest Solar System Opens on a Brownfield Site in Brockton, Mass.

October 30, 2006

The City of Brockton, Massachusetts, inaugurated the largest solar power plant in New England on October 27 in front of a group of state and local officials. The power plant is rated at 425 kilowatts (kW) and is built on the remediated site of a 19th century gasworks.

Thumbnail photo of solar panels mounted on the ground in front of an old factory.

The Brockton solar power plant is located on a 3.7 acre lot with 1,395 solar panels that are anchored in crushed rock covering coal tar and ash from a 19th century gasworks factory.
Credit: SCHOTT North America

Located 25 miles south of Boston, Brockton is known for its high concentration of recycling and trash processing facilities because they can operate on brownfield sites that are too contaminated for housing or modern commercial use. Project organizers say the solar project will help change the image of Brockton and attract new industry. Schott representatives have talked with the city about eventually expanding the capacity at the site to 1 megawatt.

The plant was built within its budget of $3.1 million, which will be paid through $1.6 million in city bond, a grant of $1 million from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, and a grant of $789,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy Million Solar Roofs Program. The Brockton City Council voted on March 13 to authorize Brockton Mayor James Harrington to sign the contract with Global Solar, Inc., to build the plant. The city will sell electricity and renewable energy credits to Constellation NewEnergy, which is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, and supplies electricity to customers in deregulated markets on the East Coast. The city expects to earn about $130,000 per year from the sales and thus recoup its initial investment in about 20 years.

At the inauguration, Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Director Warren Leon said, “The city’s execution of this contract represents another important milestone for a project that will generate clean electricity, help educate people about the need for alternative energy sources and stand as a symbol of what is possible when leaders from the public and private sectors work together toward a cleaner energy future for Massachusetts.”

For details about the inauguration, see the SCHOTT North America October 26 press release.

The electricity generated at the Brockton solar power plant will avoid the emission of about 595,300 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. That is the equivalent carbon reduction to taking 45 cars off the road or planting 89 acres of trees. In addition, the project also avoids emissions of 1,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 370 pounds of nitrogen oxide per year.

The project was part of Brockton Solar Champions, which has also helped support other solar installations in the city. For example, Brockton is the site of Johnson Square Village, the first 100 percent solar condo project in New England. And since September 2004, the roof of Brockton High School supports a solar power system rated at 2.4 kW.

Source: Article by Mark Baard titled, "Turn Around, Brightfield" in the October 27 edition of Grist magazine.