City preps for solar on contaminated High School lands
Source: Ariel Wittenberg, South Coast Today
NEW BEDFORD — City, state and federal officials gathered in the New Bedford High School parking lot Wednesday afternoon to celebrate inter-agency cooperation on a solar farm set to be built on-site.
The 500 kilowatt solar farm will be installed by New Bedford-based Beaumont Solar and is just the latest solar project to be installed on city lands.
There are 4.3 megawatts of projects currently installed or under construction in the city, including at the wastewater and water treatment plants. Together they are projected to save the city $500,000 next year and nearly $20 million over the next 20 years, according to Mayor Jon Mitchell.
But, he said, the solar project planned for the high school is special because it will be built on top of the old Parker Street Waste Site.
“We’re turning our environmental liability into an environmental success,” he said.
Located under the high school and Keith Middle School between Oak Grove Cemetery and Summit Street, the Parker Street Waste Dump was a dumping ground for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which can cause cancer.
Today, the site of the old dump has use restrictions in order to protect human health. Solar panels are one use that is not only allowed but also encouraged by federal and state officials.
Mark Sylvia, commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, said the Parker Street Waste Site is one that city, state and federal officials have “long wrestled with” but finally found a way to “turn it into a new opportunity.”
EPA Region One Administrator Curt Spalding agreed, saying, “It’s a noble thing to do, to get something good out of these sites.”
The city is currently considering using solar panels on other areas of the former waste dump, including the Nemasket Street Lot.
The high school solar site, located on the Liberty Street side of campus, has already been capped by crews from the city’s Department of Public Infrastructure.
All that’s left is to install the panels.
Once installed, the panels not only will generate green energy but they will also be integrated into the high school’s Academy of Engineering program, according to Superintendent Pia Durkin.
“The world must be our science lab, and that is exactly the approach we intend with the solar project here at New Bedford High,” she said.