Boston-Area Partnership Leads to Largest-Ever Renewable Energy Project in U.S.

By Practice Greenhealth Staff on January 19, 2017

Boston Medical Center (BMC), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation have formed an alliance to purchase electricity from a large new solar power installation, adding carbon-free energy to the grid and demonstrating a partnership model for other organizations in climate change mitigation efforts.

The agreement has enabled the construction of a 650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm on farmland in North Carolina. Called Summit Farms, the facility is the largest renewable energy project ever built in the United States through an alliance of diverse organizations. It is expected to begin delivering power to the grid by the end of 2017.

The purchase of power from this facility’s 255,000 solar panels will neutralize 100 percent of electricity consumption for both BMC, a 496-bed academic medical center in Boston’s South End, and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation, which manages an underground parking garage and a park in downtown Boston. MIT’s purchase of power from this facility will be equivalent to 40 percent of the institute’s current electricity use.

BMC’s participation and accomplishment raises the bar for the 20 Boston-area hospitals and health systems that are working together to reduce their carbon emissions and energy consumption as part of Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission Health Care Working Group. The commission is a group of business, institutional and civic leaders in Boston working to develop shared strategies for fighting climate change in coordination with the City’s Climate Action Plan. With funding from the Barr Foundation, it sponsored a $100,000 Renewable Energy Leadership Prize designed to encourage large Boston-area energy users to develop renewable energy purchasing strategies. Competition for the prize was the catalyst that led A Better City to organize this complex and innovative renewable energy purchasing arrangement.

MIT has committed to buying 73 percent of the power generated by the new array, with Boston Medical Center purchasing 26 percent and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation purchasing the remainder. MIT’s purchase of 44 megawatts is among the largest publicly announced purchases of solar energy by any American college or university, and the largest among academic institutions in the Eastern United States. In aggregate, the expected 146 gigawatt-hours of emissions-free power per year will result in the abatement of 119,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—the equivalent of removing 25,250 cars from the road.

“BMC is proud to join MIT and the Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation in this historic renewable-energy agreement,” said Robert Biggio, vice president of facilities and support services at BMC. “This purchase is equivalent to 100 percent of BMC’s projected electric consumption, making us the greenest hospital in Boston and on pace to become the first carbon-neutral hospital in New England upon the completion of our campus redesign. This is the right thing to do for the quality of life and health of our patients and our planet.”