Town of Hadley begins solar development project

By Marleigh Felsenstein

In an effort to reduce the high cost of energy in Hadley, the town is beginning a solar development project to generate electricity that is expected to benefit taxpayers for the next 20 years.

Through a partnership with Nexamp, an independent solar power producer, the town is installing solar grids, which will help produce electricity and reduce the cost of energy.

According to David Nixon, Hadley town administrator, the town itself is not putting forth any money for the project.

“Nexamp is raising private dollars for installment,” Nixon said.

To help alleviate the problem of expensive energy in Hadley, Nexamp has created “coupons” to help reduce electric bills. Hadley, with cooperation from Nexamp, can use these coupons for a 21 percent discount on electric bills. This will provide the town with  at least $300,000 in savings, which could increase to as much as $600,000 in the future, according to Nixon.

The solar panels, located on Mill Valley Road at Allard Farm, will begin operating in Jan. 2014. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that the solar panels will generate up to 3 megawatts of power.

“(Hadley is a) small town with big town issues,” Nixon said. Many more people than just its 5,000 residents travel through the town on any given day because of its central location between the Amherst and Northampton commuter route.

Nixon also said that the town has many “energy hogs,” which include a wastewater treatment plant and the two Hadley schools— Hopkins Academy and Hadley Elementary School. Parts of the University of Massachusetts campus are also located in Hadley, including the Mullins Center. These places use a lot of energy and water, Nixon said, which is what contributes to the high cost of energy.

The new solar panels are not the town’s only environmentally conscious feature. Hadley also has anaerobic digesters, which convert organic waste, such as livestock manure, into energy.

Nixon said that cutting back on emissions is important in preventing environmental damage, and added that he would like to see more solar panels on Hadley residences. The federal and state governments provide incentives, including tax breaks and refunds, to residents who put solar panels on their homes.

Marleigh Felsenstein can be reached at [email protected]

Nov. 6, 11:35 a.m. editor’s note: A previous version of this story attributed a claim to David Nixon that Massachusetts should continue to rise in the ranks of solar development. Nixon did not say this.