Western Massachusetts Electric Company
P.O. Box 2010
West Springfield, MA 01090-2010
(800) 789-2290 (Media Inquiries)

WMECO Announces Solar Energy Plan for Western Massachusetts
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., February 12, 2009 – Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) announced that it filed today with the Department of Public Utilities a plan to implement an integrated, large-scale solar energy program in its service area that can begin to generate power from photovoltaic (PV) facilities as early as 2010.

Under the Green Communities Act, ground-breaking legislation passed in 2008, electric distribution companies like WMECO are authorized to play a critical role in meeting the state’s solar energy goal of developing 250 megawatts (MW) of installed solar by 2017. Under the Green Communities Act, WMECO is allowed to own up to 50 MW of solar facilities.

“WMECO is fully committed to helping the Commonwealth meet its aggressive policy goals for the development of large-scale solar energy, which will help the state reduce its carbon emissions and diversify its energy sources away from fossil fuels,” said Peter Clarke, President and Chief Operating Officer of WMECO. “Our program has been carefully designed to become a progressive model for utility-owned solar assets,” he said. “The knowledge gained from the program also can be applied to other distributed renewable technologies, including wind and biomass, which are equally important to the state’s goals for energy independence and energy security.”

“I am pleased to see WMECO stepping forward to take advantage of this new opportunity to contribute toward Governor Patrick’s solar energy goal,” said Philip Giudice, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. “This proposal for utility-owned solar power promises clean, renewable energy for WMECO customers and a greener energy future for the Commonwealth. I look forward to reviewing the details,” he said.

Reaching the state’s goal of 250 MW of installed solar capacity will require additional efforts to increase the number and size of solar installations, and the rate at which they are developed.

Since generating utility-scale quantities of electricity from photovoltaics is a relatively new technology, both in Massachusetts and nationwide, the WMECO program is designed to function as a progressive program that will help the state answer key questions important to scaling up solar operations to serve larger populations. Among the issues to be explored are how solar facilities should connect to the grid most efficiently; what role smart grid technologies will play in the use of solar power; how utilities should work with local component manufacturers and installers of solar equipment.

In the first phase of the WMECO plan, eight locations have been identified as potential host sites of solar facilities. These locations represent many of the major categories of potential locations in the state.

The potential sites include:

WMECO also has received expressions of interest from Solutia, the Big E and The Springfield Republican.

WMECO selected Springfield and Pittsfield for sites because they are the two “Gateway Cities” in WMECO’s service territory, which the state has targeted as regional economic development priorities. These initial sites will provide six megawatts of solar capacity at a total cost of approximately $42 million. By adding additional sites between 2010 and 2012, WMECO’s solar capacity could expand to 15 MW, enough electricity to power 15,000 homes by the end of 2012. Beyond 2012 WMECO could expand the number of sites to reach 50 MW.

WMECO’s program has been designed to be as cost-effective as possible for customers and the Commonwealth. WMECO will help offset the program’s costs by selling not only the electricity generated by the solar arrays but also its environmental and other credits through programs such as Renewable Energy Credits and New England’s Forward Capacity Market. Value obtained from these transactions as well as any grants, incentives or other sources of funds will be used to help pay for the program. If approved, the bill impact on customers is expected to be modest, amounting initially to less than $1 per month for an average residential customer using 500 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.

Western Massachusetts Electric Company, part of the Northeast Utilities System (NYSE:NU), serves approximately 200,000 customers in 59 communities throughout western Massachusetts and is committed to the environment, economic development and the health of the communities it serves.

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