3 Boston institutions finance NC solar farm

MIT and BMC help finance 60 megawatt facility

THREE BOSTON-AREA INSTITUTIONS are financing the construction of one of the largest renewable energy projects in the United States, a 60-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina.

MIT, Boston Medical Center, and the Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation said on Wednesday they had signed a 25-year contract to purchase the power output from the project’s 255,000 solar panels. The power purchase agreement paved the way for the financing of the solar project, which is being developed by Dominion Resources in North Carolina’s Currituck County and scheduled to start operating later this year.

MIT agreed to buy 73 percent of the project’s power output, Boston Medical Center committed to 26 percent, and Post Office Square to 1 percent.  The Post Office Square Redevelopment Corp. developed and manages the Garage at Post Office Square and the park above it.

The companies intend to purchase the power generated by the solar farm and then resell it into the power grid in North Carolina. Robert Biggio, vice president of facilities and support services at Boston Medical Center, said the Boston-area institutions hope to break-even on the transaction.

He said the institutions will continue to purchase power locally as they do now, but they will also retain renewable energy certificates from the North Carolina project that will allow them to claim they have abated 119,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of removing 25,250 cards from the road.

The agreement will allow MIT, Boston Medical Center, and the Post Office Square Redevelopment Corp. to offset a significant portion of their greenhouse gas emissions. Biggio said the solar power purchase, together with a $300 million campus redesign, should allow the hospital to become carbon-neutral by the end of 2018.

The 60-megawatt solar farm is much larger than any similar facility in New England, but it is still much smaller than most conventional power plants. The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is 680, for example, ios 680 megawatts.

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Bruce Mohl

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About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Biggio said the three institutions decided on the North Carolina project rather than one closer to home after realizing the 650-acre facility could only be located in certain areas of the country. He also said North Carolina tends to rely on coal-fired power plants more than New England, so building the facility there will have the effect of reducing dependence on the dirtier fuel.

Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research, said she believes the project demonstrates what is possible. “We believe our experience can help catalyze similar investments in clean energy, which will be vital to achieving a zero-carbon global energy system within this century,” she said in a statement.