BEVERLY — The city is looking to put solar panels on multiple city-owned parking lots and rooftops in an effort to save on energy costs and create a "greener carbon footprint" over the next two decades.

The panels would be installed on the roof and in parking lots at the high school and middle school, on the roofs of City Hall and the Senior Center, and in parking lots at the McPherson Youth Center and Pond Street.

The plan also calls for replacing most of the solar panels at Greenergy Park, the historic solar array on the hill next to the high school.

"We're trying to host as much solar as we feasibly can," Mayor Mike Cahill said. "We want to be a host for clean renewable energy."

The plan is laid out in a request for proposals issued by the city last week. A private developer would install, own and maintain the solar systems. The city would make money through lease payments from the developer over 20 years and by purchasing energy generated by the solar panels at lower costs.

The city already has solar panels on the roof of the high school. This plan would call for more panels on the cafeteria, as well as canopy-style solar arrays in the high school parking lots.

The plan also calls for the replacement of all of the solar panels at Greenergy Park except for one single row at the southeast corner, according to the request for proposals.

That solar array was one of eight sites chosen by President Jimmy Carter's administration in 1981 to experiment with solar panels, and is the only one remaining. The one row of original panels would be kept as a "legacy memorial of Dr. (John) Coleman's pioneering effort to bring solar electricity to Beverly," according to the proposal.

The late Coleman, an MIT physicist from Beverly, helped to create the solar array.

Fred Hopps, the volunteer site director for the park, said keeping the original panels will honor the site's history while the new panels will increase its efficiency. The site has not been producing energy for the last two years because of problems with a switch that sends power to the high school, he said.

"It has always been a symbolic site," Hopps said. "It requires a lot of maintenance. We've come so much further with solar. It's time to modernize."

The new solar systems, if they all come to fruition, would produce almost 5 megawatts of power annually, Cahill said. Another solar array planned for the former city landfill on Brimbal Avenue would also produce about 5 megawatts per year. The city uses about 9 megawatts per year for its electrical needs, mostly street lights, schools and other city-owned buildings.

"The impact in benefits of these projects together can be extremely significant," Cahill said.

Cahill said he could not put a potential dollar value on the project because bids have not yet been submitted. Developers have until Dec. 13 to turn in their bids.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

Proposed locations of solar panels

Beverly High School parking lot and roof

Beverly Middle School parking lot and roof

Senior Center roof

City Hall roof

Myles McPherson Center parking lot

Pond Street parking lots behind Atomic Cafe and former Brown's Bicycles

Greenergy Park (next to high school) — replace most of existing arrays

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