When Gov. Deval Patrick flipped the switch at Westford Solar Park in late April, he officially launched the largest privately owned solar park in New England. And UMass Lowell was front and center as one of the major partners of the new endeavor.
The 4.5-megawatt solar panel field, with more than 14,000 panels, is situated on 22 acres near Route 3 in Westford. Developed by Boston-based Cathartes Private Investments, along with North Andover’s Nexamp, a renewable energy firm, the park will produce enough electricity to power more than 500 homes annually and offset the greenhouse gas emissions of more than 20,000 passenger vehicles over the facility’s lifetime.
Through energy discounts and credits, the partnership with Westford Solar is expected to save UMass Lowell approximately $800,000 over the next 20 years. An additional phase of the Westford Solar facility is under discussion that could bring total savings to more than $1.6 million. Additionally, the campus will explore learning and research collaborations with the park.
“Our involvement with this project is part of our ongoing commitment to making the world a greener, more environmentally friendly place,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan at the event on April 25.
UMass Lowell’s partnership with Westford Solar was a major factor in enabling the project, which required the participation of a public partner for the firm to earn net metering credits. The arrangement is set forth in the state’s Green Communities Act of July 2008.
“The growth of solar power is critical to the economic growth of the region and the sustainability of institutions like UMass Lowell,” said Meehan. “The University is a leader in solar energy engineering education and this partnership complements our commitment to renewable energy sources, as well as our efforts to ‘green’ our campus.”