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Farm of solar panels energizes Saugus

Saugus DPW Motor Pool Supervisor stands in front of the fence to the new solar farm that was installed on top of the landfill behind the DPW. (Spenser Hasak)

SAUGUS — Street lights, street lamps, and town buildings will now be powered in part by thousands of solar panels behind the Department of Public Works.

The solar farm is comprised of 5,000 solar panels and installed on a capped landfill site at 515 Main St.

The farm will generate a projected 2 million kilowatt hours per year in net metering credits that will be credited to the town’s electrical accounts. It’s expected to generate about $150,000 per year in electricity cost savings and $80,000 in new revenue each year, including an annual $40,000 payment in lieu of taxes and a $40,000 land lease payment.

“The farm will help negate energy costs for our residents, as well as sever as a source of increased revenue to support local projects and initiatives,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “This was an idea that was first brought forward to my office by Robert Long, who was then Town Moderator.”

It will provide electricity cost savings for many of the town-owned buildings, the Lincoln Avenue sewer pumping station, and some of the town traffic and street lights.

“The solar farm is an excellent use for the landfill,” said Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “This goes a long way towards maintaining our green community status. I believe this is a positive image for Saugus. It’s not wasteful, it’s innovative, and it’s saving the town money. This is a great use of land for green purposes.”

Plans for the project began in 2014 when the town was awarded a $12,500 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to retain a consultant to help the town find a company to erect ground-mounted panels on the site.

The town partnered with Ameresco under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement. Ameresco is responsible for designing, building, permitting, owning, and operating the farm for the full 20-year period.

The DPW is also home to an electric car charging station. Two electric vehicles were purchased in the past year to be used by DPW staff and the Parking Enforcement Department.

In its first year, the solar panels are expected to offset the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 319 cars driven for one year, or the electricity use of 220 homes in one year.

Residents are invited to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site Monday at 5 p.m.

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