Solar Canopies Coming To Parking Lots

A 20-year power purchasing agreement between the city and Omni Navitas was approved this week.

Article: Peter Francis | Publication: Eagle Tribune | Date: 2016-10-20

HAVERHILL — If you park at either of the city's train stations to catch the commuter rail, you will soon have a solar canopy over your car.

A 20-year power purchasing agreement between the city and the Omni Navitas company was approved this week by the City Council. The agreement will lead to construction of two roofs with solar panels over the parking lots of the Bradford and downtown train stations.

Under the agreement, Haverhill will buy electricity for 13 cents per kilowatt hour, which will be transferred from the panels to a grid which provides power to the city.

A date hasn't been set for the company to start building the canopies, which have also been approved by the MBTA. 

City Purchasing Director Orlando Pacheco said the projects can potentially harvest enough sunlight to not just provide city buildings with electricity, but help save the city money on its overall expenses.

"We're looking at around $88,000 savings between the agreements (in the first year)," he said. "We're finally getting into projects that will impact the city's budget, hopefully the next one, then certainly the one after it.''

Haverhill is also placing solar panels on the roof of City Hall and other public buildings, and is considering a solar project atop the old city landfill in Bradford.

Pacheco said the Bradford train station solar canopy could draw a little over 1,030,000 kilowatts of power a year, a majority of which would go toward helping to power City Hall and the city's streetlights. The canopy slated for the downtown train station parking lot could generate 730,000 kilowatts a year, he said.

City Councilor Melinda Barrett asked Pacheco whether the canopies would cause the parking lots to lose spaces. Pacheco said they would actually gain spaces.

"During construction you probably lose space, but once it's done, you probably actually get enhanced parking because you get more cover," said Pacheco, adding concrete pilings already present at the lots will be used as foundations for the structures.

"It's becoming more common," Pacheco said of the canopy projects. "When solar first evolved, it wasn't as common in Massachusetts, but you're seeing it more now."

Pacheco said he is optimistic about the savings the canopies will generate.

So too are city leaders.

"It's a great opportunity for the city. It's the way to go,'' said Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua. "I think you're going to see more and more of it in the Northeast.'' 

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