Solar farm evokes interest, awe
WESTBORO — The array of gray-blue panels, glittering in the sunlight, was just as beautiful as Ken Percy imagined it would be.
“It’s just amazing,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to stand here and look at this.”
The display that evoked such awe from Mr. Percy is a solar farm, a collection of 856 panels that provide power from the sun’s energy. The panels are bolted into concrete blocks on the ground, on several acres off Route 135 (Milk Street).
Rows and rows of panels, tilted toward the sky, sit between a thicket of trees and a bubbling brook on one side, bustling railroad tracks on the other.
Mr. Percy and his wife, Diane, were among dozens of businesspeople and solar enthusiasts who came to see the project yesterday.
Ken Percy, who recently had 18 solar panels installed at his home in Easton, views the new solar farm in Westboro. (T&G Staff/JIM COLLINS)
The idea and the funding for the $2 million, 240-kilowatt solar farm came from local developer Bruce F. Forrestall. The panels are connected to the power grid. National Grid gives Mr. Forrestall a credit for the energy generated through the panels, and Mr. Forrestall uses that credit to offset energy costs at his home, a gas station and other buildings he owns in town.
SolarFlair Energy Inc. of Framingham installed the system. The panels were manufactured in China by Suntech, a global solar energy company.
This is the biggest ground-mounted solar system SolarFlair has developed.
The Framingham company invited past and prospective customers to view the solar farm “to show people what the opportunities are for solar,” said Daniel T. Greenwood, the company’s manager of business development. “It can happen right here in MetroWest.”
Many of the visitors yesterday didn’t need to be convinced of the benefits of solar energy, because they already have invested in solar projects. The Percys recently installed 18 panels on the roof of their Easton home. It was a $32,000 project, but half the cost was covered by government grants and tax incentives.
When weighing whether to do the project, Mrs. Percy thought about it this way: What else can you do with $16,000?
“You could buy a car,” she said, “but in five years, you’d need a new car.”
Spending the money on solar panels was “a no-brainer,” she said.
Father and son Greg and Mike Montalbano, who work at their family-owned Framingham hardware store, Monnick Supply Co., also came to see the solar farm. The Montalbanos installed 120 solar panels on the roof of their store in late 2009, at a cost of about $262,000. In the first year after installation, the panels produced 10 percent more energy than projected, Greg Montalbano said.
“It’s nice to see a lot of people doing these things,” he said. “We definitely have an energy problem in this country.”
Mr. Forrestall is already planning his next solar project: an array of panels four times the size of the Milk Street display. He is still trying to find a good location.
“It’d be roughly 4,000 panels,” he said.
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