Westwood Moves to Expand Solar Generated Electricity


Image by Westwood Minute. The inset photo shows the uncovered parking lot of Westwood High School before construction of a solar canopy array. The larger photo (by andreas160578 on PIxabay) shows a portion of a generic solar array.

Thanks to the Town of Westwood for contributing this article to Westwood Minute.

WESTWOOD, MA – Jan. 19, 2023 – Two major new solar projects have been approved for the Town of Westwood and are entering the final design and construction phase. These projects will provide the town and the Westwood Public Schools with reliable, lower-cost energy supply and help insulate against price fluctuations in the future. Westwood currently has a long-term electric supply contract that runs through Dec. 2026, furnishing the town with a lower than market rate.

According to Westwood Energy Manager Tom Philbin, the town is expanding its solar capacity where practical, and carrying out conservation projects to reduce consumption. “These efforts will minimize the impact of the energy cost increases for the town that are expected in the near future,” said Philbin.

The first approved solar project calls for a 670 kW DC canopy array on the student parking lot at Westwood High School. This array is designed to increase the percentage of electric power from solar and will also provide shelter to participants of Westwood Day, as well as for people watching games on the multi-purpose field. The array is designed to keep the faculty parking lot area open for high school events, and certain large exhibits during Westwood Day and throughout the year. It is scheduled for completion in the Summer of 2024.

The second project is a 600kW rooftop array at the new Pine Hill elementary school. This project is one of the first in the state to utilize new federal grant provisions that will cover 30 percent of the project cost and save taxpayers over $2 million in its initial 20-year life. The array – plus the other energy conservation measures incorporated into the school design – will help the Pine Hill School approach near zero in electric power needs for operation and be among the most efficient schools in the Commonwealth.

Through the town’s participation in Eversource’s “Make Ready” program and the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Implementation Plan (EVIP), Westwood has been granted over $600,000 to implement an Electric Vehicle Charger Program at municipal and school facilities. The current design plan calls for two Level 3 (4 ports) rapid chargers in front of the police station and two Level 2 chargers (4 ports) at the main library and the high school. Philbin said the town is also applying for funds to install three Level 2 (6 ports) at the new Pine Hill Elementary School. The Town has already installed two chargers at the DPW facility and one at Wentworth Hall that will help accommodate the town's efforts to convert its fleet to electric vehicles.

Finally, Westwood filed for a Green Communities Grant in Feb. 2022 and subsequently was awarded $90,000, bringing the seven-year total of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) grants to Westwood to approximately $1.39 million. The 2022 grant was used for new LED lighting at the Sheehan Elementary School and an HVAC upgrade with air cleaning at the Thurston Middle School.

“In addition to Green Community funding, Westwood receives incentives from Eversource’s municipal program and other financial incentives to control project costs through pre-approved contractors. The Eversource municipal program, in particular, has been a great benefit to Westwood and other towns in Massachusetts over the past 10 years,” Philbin said.

He added that the Westwood Environmental Action Committee (WEAC), which aims to preserve the natural environment in Westwood and move the town away from reliance on fossil fuels, has endorsed these conservation and solar efforts.

Westwood Town Administrator Chris Coleman called Philbin “a true leader in sustainability,” said the town is fortunate to have him on the team. “Through Tom’s leadership, the town has received grants for this year totaling more than $600,000. Even more will be saved through power contracts and other sustainable efforts. Tom has led the town in our efforts to move closer to the goal of utilizing climate-friendly options to account for 90 percent of energy usage by 2025. We are so appreciative of Tom and all the work he has done and continues to do for the Town of Westwood.”

For additional information, contact Thomas Philbin, Town of Westwood Energy Manager, at tphilbin@townhall.westwood.ma.us.

You may also be interested in reading:

Westwood Creates Climate Action Task Force

Town Meeting: Victory for Sustainability Advocates, Treasurer and Collector Are No Longer Elected Positions

Proposed Solar Canopy Over Westwood High School Parking Lot Could Increase Town's Energy Independence and Lower Electric Costs

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