Located on the outskirts of Beverly, Mass., in Essex County, the Beverly Community Solar Project was four and a half years in the making. Early challenges included waiting for an open incentive program that would make the project economically viable. In late 2018, Massachusetts introduced its new solar incentive program, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program or SMART, and the door opened for the Beverly Solar Project. Little could the project stakeholders anticipate the extraordinary circumstances that were to be encountered ahead.
This three-part series will detail the entire process — from the RFP to the COVID-19 challenge — and provide key insight from the developers and construction teams that made it all happen.
Project: Beverly Community Solar Project
Size: 4.9 MW
Location: Beverly Landfill, MA
Developer: BlueWave Solar
EPC: Signal Energy
Modules: Hanwha Q Cells 400 W
Racking: Solar FlexRack B3P-X Fixed Tilt
Inverters: SMA America
Monitoring: Also Energy
Project Owner: BlueWave Solar
Power Offtakers: City of Beverly, residents and local businesses
Date Completed: Under construction – expected completion summer 2020
Part 1: Development
From RFP to Site Assessment
This unique solar project began in early 2016 when the city council of Beverly, Mass., decided to explore the possibility of installing solar on some of their underutilized assets. BlueWave Solar, which is headquartered in nearby Boston, responded to the city’s request for a proposal.
BlueWave Solar, a national solar developer with over 200 MW under its belt, specializes in community solar projects. They have built a proprietary program with customized infrastructure that serves the distinct needs of this type of solar project. The city council was purposeful in their actions: BlueWave Solar is known for its collaborative approach and their dedication to their clientele. That kind of commitment was an important factor in their agreement moving forward. BlueWave was awarded the project.
BlueWave undertook an analysis of the city’s properties to assess if any would satisfy the requirements to support the construction of a solar power generation plant, along with achieving the city’s obligatory financial and sustainability goals. They identified the Beverly Landfill as a primary site. Landfill sites can be optimal real estate for solar due to their location (outside of major business and population areas), proximity and access to utility power lines, along with the benefits of converting unusable land into a productive asset. BlueWave’s extensive solar development experience was relevant, along with its proven track record of successful landfill solar projects.
As the development of the project progressed challenges were apparent with access to the site. Through a series of negotiations, land adjacent to the landfill was contracted for construction, interconnection and, operations and maintenance.
From the Development Perspective
- Research the closing of the landfill and review all related information and documentation
- Verify documented information and site conditions to avoid misinformation
- Include weather in project planning and scheduling
- Hire a highly experienced, and responsive EPC firm to not only manage the work but proactively anticipate and manage potential challenges
- Carefully review all plans and timelines to ensure schedules are met and stakeholders’ expectations are being achieved
Tip: “While we did not encounter an issue with the cap on this project, on another site we did experience an issue with plans that were out of alignment with the cap’s location. Had we not caught that, it could have had expensive ramifications. We are now more cautious and tend to double-check important data points.” — William B. Gaudet, Managing Director of Construction, BlueWave
Continue to Part 2: Construction and Site Challenges
— Solar Builder magazine