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Twiss Street solar project celebrates ceremonial opening

Date: 5/29/2015

WESTFIELD – The ceremonial switch was flipped at the new solar array on the Twiss Street landfill on May 20. The solar field represents a partnership between the city, Westfield Gas and Electric and Citizens Energy Corporation.

Mayor Daniel Knapik celebrated the city’s collaboration on the Twiss Street Solar LLC with Joseph Kennedy II, chairman of Citizens Energy, and Sean Fitzgerald, customer service manager at Westfield Gas and Electric.

The project covers seven and a half acres of a capped landfill, which was rented to Citizens Energy, according to City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell. Citizens Energy then sells the electricity generated to Westfield Gas and Electric.

Mitchell said the rent on the landfill, as well as the taxable solar panels, create a revenue stream for the city while providing it with clean energy. All around, he said, it is a win-win project.

“It is economically sound, and we get to green up our city,” Mitchell said.

The solar array has been functioning since Jan. 21, and in the time it has been opened it has produced more than 800-megawatt hours.

“That’s just four months, that’s something. Overall we’re saving a bunch,” Mitchell said. “It’s a pretty big impact in a short period of time.”

While this project is in its early stages, the city of Westfield has locked in the lease for an initial 20 years, with a five-year option. The success of the project thus far has encouraged the city to work on two more similar solar projects in the city.

“We might as well do what we can to lower the tax burden on the citizens of Westfield through an opportunity to generate revenue on what would otherwise be idle city land,” Mitchell said.

The opportunity to create revenue and energy also alleviates the city of the burden that comes along with maintaining a landfill. Mitchell said before the deal the city was responsible for cutting the grass on the landfill a few times a year in order to prevent saplings from popping up.

The presence of solar panels prevents this and also puts the maintenance responsibility on Citizens Energy, saving the city money.