State Department of Energy Resources Awards $500,000 Solar Energy Grant to UMass Amherst

A view of the 192 kW AC solar canopy at the Robsham Memorial Center for Visitors
A view of the 192 kW AC solar canopy at the Robsham Memorial Center for Visitors

AMHERST, Mass. – The state Department of Energy Resources will provide $500,000 through its Leading by Example (LBE) program for a 4.5 megawatt solar array at two parking lots at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The grant was announced July 22 during a ribbon cutting ceremony for a prototype solar canopy array that went online earlier this year at the Robsham Memorial Center for Visitors. A $150,660 grant to UMass Lowell was also announced.

“These solar canopies are a prime example of state agencies successfully working together to increase renewable energy while decreasing costs for taxpayers,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a press release. “Investing in clean energy projects at state properties helps the commonwealth continue to lead the way on clean energy, energy efficiency and the adoption of innovative technologies.”

“We are extremely grateful for this generous and forward-thinking support from the Baker-Polito administration and the Department of Energy Resources,” said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “We share an understanding of the importance of energy conservation in preserving the health of our planet and our economy for the good of all citizens. As the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, UMass Amherst is committed to working with the administration, the legislature and private partners to demonstrate that large-scale alternative energy projects are not only possible, but practical for our campus and beyond.”

The project will also install two electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at the Amherst campus, a requirement of the Leading by Example grants. Once complete, there will be 11 charging stations on the UMass Amherst campus, including two fast chargers that can fully charge an EV to 80 percent of full capacity in just 20 minutes.

“These solar canopy projects will add to the sizeable number of solar installations at state facilities, all of which are helping to save taxpayer dollars and generate clean, renewable power,”said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.

The solar canopies will be a privately financed and constructed system featuring a long-term energy contract that provides the campus with a known rate of electricity over 20 years.

The LBE Solar Canopy Grant Program has awarded more than $1.4 million for solar canopy projects at state agencies and colleges, which will result in the installation of more than 6 MW of solar canopy systems by the end of 2016. Additionally, 17 EV charging stations will be installed as part of these projects and other LBE efforts.

“By entering into partnerships to install a total of 4.7 MW of solar at both campuses, Massachusetts is making a clear commitment to continue our proud tradition of leading by example,” said DOER Commissioner Judith Judson. “These innovative installations showcase a prudent fiscal model for solar development at state facilities.”

The grant program is funded from Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) funds. ACP funds are paid by electric retail suppliers if they have insufficient Renewable or Alternative Energy Certificates to meet their compliance obligations under the Renewable and Alternative Portfolio Standard programs.

“This grant will increase the use of renewable energy for UMass and reduce the carbon footprint of the university. I thank the Baker administration for continuing their commitment to our clean energy future,”said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “If we are going to continue to lead the nation in solar energy production the state must set an example by adding installations like this to our state facilities.”

“I am so proud of the university’s commitment to renewable energy and green building design. I am grateful beyond words to DOER for supporting the university’s ambitious solar project,” said State Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst).“This grant is evidence that when it comes to solar adoption, the entire Amherst community leads by example.”