EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

November 29, 2010

Solar panels in Haverhill cover 5 acres

HAVERHILL — Its rows and rows of shiny panels tilted toward the sun have been catching the eyes of drivers passing by.

It is the talk of neighbors who have watched workers in hard hats come and go from the site since the summer.

Construction of a solar energy farm on Hilldale Avenue is nearing completion. When activated, it will harvest the rays from the sun and convert them to enough electricity to power 175 to 200 homes each year.

Fouad Dagher, program manager for National Grid's solar development program, said work began in Haverhill in August on the formerly unused 5-acre site. Located in a mostly residential area just outside of busy Lafayette Square, it is not where you would expect to see a sea of solar panels.

"It is unusual. You typically don't have the open space and orientation in a city," Dagher said.

Haverhill's is the biggest of four solar farms being built by National Grid this year in Massachusetts. One of the sites in Whitinsville opened this summer. One in Everett will be completed soon and another in Revere will be completed by the end of the year.

As many as 20 local tradespeople have been working at the Hilldale site daily, including union electricians, iron workers, carpenters and excavation machine operators.

When it is completed, there will be 3,670 solar panels, each about five feet by three feet, bolted to aluminum frames that tilt them at the best angle for capturing sunlight.

"We're hoping to have the system up and running by the end of the year," Dagher said. "Solar farms are one way to combat climate change. It is a clean way of producing electricity."

Donald Durgin grew up across from the site and remembers a time when there were tall gas storage tanks on the property.

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