SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

November 3, 2009

Salem apartments harnessing the sun's energy for power

SALEM — Over the next few months, workers will be installing solar panels on a Salem apartment complex that will have one of the largest photovoltaic arrays in the state.

At the Princeton Crossing apartments, across from Salem Hospital, nearly 2,000 roof-mounted solar panels are expected to generate enough electricity to power all of the common areas in the complex of 17 buildings, including laundry rooms, lounges, outdoor lighting and pumps for the heating system.

"In this economic environment, it's one of the few fun and exciting things happening ," said Kurt Shillington, operations manager at Princeton Properties, which manages the Salem complex.

The new solar array has a 347-kilowatt capacity — "enough to power 80 to 100 small homes on an annual basis, depending on how much electricity they use," said Shillington.

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust said it will be one of the biggest solar projects in the state.

Solar panels, measuring roughly 21âÑ2-by-5 feet, are being mounted on the south-facing roofs. Installation will take about two months to complete.

The project was made possible, Shillington said, by a combination of state and federal financial incentives, including grants (some from federal stimulus funds), tax benefits and an incentive to go green with affordable housing, for which Princeton Crossing qualified because 25 percent of its apartments are affordable.

The project will cost $1.95 million, but with the various incentives and rebates — and subsequent energy savings — the company expects to recoup its costs within two years, according to Sarah Greenough, vice president of Princeton Properties.

"(That's) kind of unheard of with solar," she said.

How it works

Electricity generated from the solar panels is fed into the power grid, and Princeton Properties draws from that pool of electricity.

"Their net electricity usage is lowered by the solar photovoltaic system," said Emily Dahl, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, which administers the Commonwealth Solar Rebate Program. The rebate program, launched by Gov. Deval Patrick in January 2008, has awarded more than 1,000 rebates for solar photovoltaic projects like Princeton Crossing, according to Dahl.

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