EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 2, 2014

Solar, wind producers fight for piece of state's clean energy plans


The Patrick administration has said it wants more than 20 percent of the state’s electricity to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2020 — totaling 1,600 megawatts of solar power and 2,000 megawatts of wind power — as part of a plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

Under Patrick’s tenure, the amount of solar capacity has risen from about 3 megawatts in 2008 to 250 megawatts in 2013, according to the Clean Energy Center. Wind power capacity has grown by a slower pace, from 3 megawatts in 2007 to more than 100 in 2012.

State incentive programs have spawned dozens of private and municipal solar and wind projects, including many in the Merrimack Valley and North Shore. A six-megawatt facility on 54 acres of private land in Salisbury, for example, is expected to give the town a 15 percent discount on energy costs over the next 20 years.

Krista Selmi, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the Patrick administration isn’t trying to pick winners and losers in its energy plan.

“We are completely agnostic about what kind of clean energy sources are used,” Selmi said. “And we’re not forcing companies to sign contracts. We have no idea who will bid on these projects.”

Small solar and wind companies said they are eager for business, but they admit that they don’t have the capacity that Canadian hydroelectric companies can provide.

“Solar and wind alone aren’t going to fill that demand,” said Don Walters, chief development officer for North Andover-based Nexamp Inc. The company has worked on dozens of solar projects across the state using dollars from a $20 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“You’ve got to bring hydroelectricity from Canada to fill that capacity, but there has to be a balance,” Walters said.

Barriers to the solar and wind energy market are already high, not even factoring the competition, according to small producers.

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