Nine clean energy projects receive $3 million in grants from renewable energy trust
Next $17 million of funding for Commonwealth Solar rebates also approved
BOSTON ? Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles today announced grants supporting nine new renewable energy projects awarded by the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust. The next round of funding for the highly successful Commonwealth Solar rebate program was also authorized, the Secretary said.
"There are many ways to put clean energy to work in homes, offices, businesses, and communities, and Governor Patrick wants the Commonwealth to capitalize on all of them, for economic as well as environmental benefits," said Secretary Bowles. "These nine grants will help build wind turbines, increase hydro power, and install fuel cells, while the next round of funding for Commonwealth Solar will put solar panels on homes and businesses."
The Governing Board of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust approved the grants totaling more than $3.2 million for the design and construction of nine new wind, hydroelectric, biogas, and fuel cell projects, which will result in nearly 5 megawatts of clean energy generating capacity. With the help of these grants, supermarkets, communities, businesses, and a ski resort are harnessing the power of clean, renewable energy to improve the environment and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Funds for the Trust come from renewable energy charges on electric bills, which generate roughly $25 million a year to support renewable energy installations and companies.
"We need lots of clean energy solutions, not just one, and these nine projects represent several," said Phil Giudice, Commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and chair of the Trust?s Governing Board. "The Commonwealth is committed to supporting these projects and many more like them."
The nine clean energy projects receiving design and construction grants include wind turbines for Aquacultural Research Corp. of Dennis, Berkshire East Ski Resort, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Kingston, and Upper Cape Regional High School in Bourne; additional hydro capacity at L.P. Athol Corp. in Athol and Southworth Co. in Turners Falls; fuel cells for Shaw?s/Star Market in Chestnut Hill and Whole Foods in Dedham; and a combined heat and power system fueled by biogas from anaerobic digestion for the City of Pittsfield?s wastewater treatment plant. Awards for feasibility studies are expected to be announced in the next several weeks.
The Governing Board also authorized the second $17 million block of funding for the Commonwealth Solar program, which has already led to 4.6 megawatts of renewable energy capacity through rebates awarded to 421 homeowners, businesses, and institutions across Massachusetts.
Governor Deval Patrick launched the Commonwealth Solar program in January 2008 with an initial allocation of $17 million, the first of four $17 million blocks totaling $68 million through 2011. Due to tremendous consumer demand, the Commonwealth Solar program is well ahead of schedule in awarding rebates for solar installations, with $14.9 million committed to date. Funding for Commonwealth Solar comes from Trust and DOER?s Alternative Compliance Payment fund, consisting of payments from electricity suppliers that are unable to meet their obligations under the Commonwealth?s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires them to obtain a minimum percentage of electricity supplies from renewable sources.
"Commonwealth Solar has been a big success, and shows no sign of slowing down," said Trust Executive Director Carter Wall.
Recent changes in federal law provide significant additional tax credits for homeowners and businesses to install solar electric systems. By removing the $2,000 cap on the Federal Investment Tax Credit for solar, the federal government has increased its support for residential solar installations. To ensure that the state?s rebate program strikes the appropriate balance between federal and state incentives, the Governing Board approved adjustments in the Commonwealth Solar rebate structure that will take effect January 1, 2009. Specifically, rebates for residential projects will be reduced from $2 per watt to $1 per watt for base rebate, while adders for moderate home value and moderate income were adjusted to maintain rebates at levels similar to 2008 for the average homeowner. Combined with the changes in the federal tax code, most consumers should experience a net increase in funding support for solar projects in 2009, while the new rebate levels will allow Commonwealth Solar to assist more solar projects with available dollars.