UMASS Medical School Teams Up With Major Energy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Contact: Jim Fessenden


Partnership will add 12 megawatts of solar-generated power to the electrical grid

WORCESTER, MA - As part of the University of Massachusetts Medical School's commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency, the Commonwealth's only public medical school has reached a 30-year agreement to pay for up to 12 megawatts of solar-generated power from arrays being developed by First Wind, Major Energy, Greenhouse Solar and Hecate Solar in Massachusetts. The first of the three projects, a 2.5 megawatt facility in Palmer, started producing electricity in December.

“Stewardship of the environment is a core value set forth by UMass Medical School,” said Melissa Lucas, sustainability and energy manager at UMMS. “It takes strong partnerships to meet these challenges. By teaming up with First Wind, Major Energy, Greenhouse Solar and Hecate Solar we are not only saving money but we're helping to make the electrical infrastructure we all use every day a little cleaner and more environmentally friendly.”

Under Massachusetts' public entity net metering program, UMMS is assigned the meters at the solar farms. As the power produced by the solar arrays is distributed to the electrical grid for use, the meters spin backwards. UMMS gets a credit in its monthly electric utility bill and pays the developers for the solar power at a reduced amount. Over the course of the 30-year agreement, UMMS is projected to save a third off its current energy costs - an equivalent of $715,000 annually at today's rates.

The Palmer array, developed by Major Energy and Greenhouse Solar, began producing power in December. The 24-acre solar farm features 8,620 solar panels spread over 772 strings and is capable of generating 3 million kilowatt hours a year - enough electricity to power 150 homes, according to Greenhouse Solar officials. This is the equivalent of reversing the CO2 pollution effects of 225,000 gallons of automobile gasoline each year.

“It is a privilege to be kicking off our solar business in such a great market with such strong partners,” said Saul Horowitz, CEO of Major Energy. “Greenhouse Solar, The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have all done a great job at crafting a program that sets an excellent example for businesses and institutions in Massachusetts, and throughout the country, on how to exercise fiscal diligence and environmental responsibility. Allowing customers to realize monetary savings while making a significant positive impact on the environment has always been one of our driving goals.”

A 6 megawatt solar farm in Warren being developed by First Wind is expected to begin generation in June. The UMMS portion of the project will contain 19,998 solar panels and will generate 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year. A typical fossil fuel burning energy plant generating this much electricity would emit more than 5,500 tons of CO2 a year. By buying the power from the Warren solar project, UMMS is avoiding burning the equivalent of 13,000 barrels of oil or 3,700 tons of coal, and preventing more than 5,500 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

“We're pleased to help UMass Medical School take a major step toward reaching its renewable energy goals, while also helping it save on electricity costs,” said Carol Grant, senior vice president of external affairs at First Wind. “Forward-thinking institutions like UMMS recognize that renewable energy projects like ours in Warren deliver twin benefits of clean, emissions-free electricity and a good price.”

The final project, a 3.5 megawatt Monson solar farms being developed by Hecate Solar, is expected to go online in 2015.

Because of the campus footprint there are limited opportunities for installing solar panels on site at UMMS. “Because many of our buildings utilize mechanical systems designed for research use, there isn't enough roof space to install solar panels,” said Lucas. “These types of net metering programs allow the medical school to tap into the benefits of solar power despite these challenges and further the Commonwealth's goal to increase renewable energy in the State.”

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), one of five campuses of the University system, comprises the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Graduate School of Nursing, a thriving research enterprise and an innovative public service initiative, Commonwealth Medicine. Its mission is to advance the health of the people of the Commonwealth through pioneering education, research, public service and health care delivery with its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care. In doing so, it has built a reputation as a world-class research institution and as a leader in primary care education. The Medical School attracts more than $240 million annually in research funding, placing it among the top 50 medical schools in the nation. In 2006, UMMS's Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with colleague Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, of Stanford University, for their discoveries related to RNA interference (RNAi). The 2013 opening of the Albert Sherman Center ushered in a new era of biomedical research and education on campus. Designed to maximize collaboration across fields, the Sherman Center is home to scientists pursuing novel research in emerging scientific fields with the goal of translating new discoveries into innovative therapies for human diseases.

About First Wind
First Wind is an independent renewable energy company exclusively focused on the development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of utility-scale renewable energy projects in the United States. Based in Boston, First Wind is operating or building renewable energy projects in the Northeast, the West and Hawaii, with combined capacity of nearly 1,300 megawatts (MW) - enough to power more than 375,000 homes each year. For more information on First Wind, please visit www.firstwind.com or follow us on Twitter @FirstWind.

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