HYANNIS – A major construction project to install the largest solar array on Cape Cod began at the Barnstable Municipal Airport this week.
Construction crews are installing thousands of support posts and angled racks in grassy areas alongside both runways.
The infrastructure for the project will support 24,700 photovoltaic modules spread across 18.8 acres of the airfield, creating a 6.9 megawatt resource.
When connected to the region’s power grid later this year, the array, according to airport spokesman Chip Bishop, will collect the sun’s energy and convert it to 8,103 annual megawatt hours of electricity to benefit the airport, the Barnstable Fire District and, ultimately, the ratepayers in the Town of Barnstable and throughout the region who belong to the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative.
“This is enough electricity to power 1,077 homes,” Mr. Bishop wrote in a prepared statement.
Barnstable Municipal Airport Manager Roland “Bud” Breault said, “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
John Checklick, the Falmouth representative to the Cooperative who is currently the Cooperative president, “The Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative’s energy projects are unique. They will provide regional benefits to all the people of the Cape and Martha’s Vineayrd through savings to the towns and significant carbon reductions.”
The solar array is being installed by G&S Solar, which has built, operated and owned more than 100 solar systems in Massachusetts and New Jersey.
The firm has a contract with the Cooperative to build and maintain the airport installation and 16 others on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineayrd in exchange for per-kilowatt-hour payments that are expected to result in a profit for the company.
Under what’s known as a power purchase agreement, the Cooperative will buy the green energy from G& S Solar and the airport and the Barnstable Fire District will get first dibs on the generated power. The excess power will be sold by the Cooperative to ratepayers in participating towns in Barnstable and Dukes counties.
Most of the revenue will accrue to the airport and the Town of Barnstable in equal amounts.
G & S Solar and the Cooperative also benefit from financial incentives offered by Massachusetts and from federal tax credits, both of which are intended to promote the generation of energy from non-fossil sources.
Breault estimated that the airport-based panels will reduce the airport’s cost of electricity by more than 17 percent and provide more than $7 million in revenue over 20 years. It’s part of the airport commission’s effort to expand its revenue base from non-traditional sources, he said.
The airport’s annual electric bill is about $225,000, according to Breault. He said the cost of the power for the new terminal, the new tower and the expanded parking areas are substantially less than in the old, less-energy-efficient facilities.
The project to install the panels was held up by the Federal Aviation Administration which was concerned about glare from the panels. That concern was resolved, according to Bishop.