Business & Tech

Eversource gets state approval for solar panel facilities across the state

Eversource Energy has received state approval for a plan that involves building at least a dozen solar energy facilities, allowing it to take advantage of a change in state law that permits utilities to generate more solar power on their own.

Eversource said it is seeking locations for the facilities, which will be split between Eastern and Western Massachusetts. It is also unclear how many sites the company will build upon, because the number will depend on the size of each site. Eversource plans to hone in on a list of proposed sites by May, and they may require municipal approval. The state gave its OK to the plan on Dec. 29.

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Already, Eversource operates three solar facilities capable of generating a combined eight megawatts of power in Western Massachusetts. By the time the new facilities — akin to large expanses of ground-based solar panels — are brought online, Eversource will be capable of generating 70 megawatts, which the company estimates is enough to power about 10,000 homes.

Eversource said it can generate the solar power cheaper than other Massachusetts producers because it will be able to buy solar panels in bulk and because it would own some or all of the facilities’ properties. The costs to generate the power will be offset by selling power on the regional electric market, and through state and federal credits.

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Utilities are typically not allowed to create their own power unless they do so through a subsidiary, but state law carves out an exception for limited solar power generation. Those limits were boosted in 2016.

Eversource unveiled other ambitions in renewable energy generation last month, when it announced it would invest in a planned wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard with DONG Energy, a European wind turbine developer. That investment took advantage of new state legislation, too, after a bill passed last summer required utilities to soon buy large amounts of off shore wind power.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.
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