Facing a $100M shortfall, MBTA trumpets solar array-parking plan

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BOSTON — The MBTA, whose electricity consumption is akin to that of 42,000 households, plans to harness the power of the sun with a contract to bring in $51 million over 20 years.

After expressing some concern about a lack of bidders on the T’s leasing to solar companies, the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board authorized officials at the transit agency to enter a lease agreement on Monday.

Under the deal, Omni Navitas Holdings will install solar panels on the top of nine parking garages and at 28 surface parking lots, including lots on the Worcester commuter line but none in the city, paying $1.9 million the first year with 3 percent annual increases in rent.

Rendering of a solar array-covered MBTA parking lot.

State House News Service / Courtesy MBTA

Rendering of a solar array-covered MBTA parking lot.

According to T officials, the arrangement will generate 48 million kilowatt hours of electricity, and the solar power sold would be subject to net-metering caps within various utilities’ jurisdictions.

Net-metering allows solar generators to receive the retail rate for power sold to utilities, and for commercial and public-sector projects the percentage of solar net-metering in a utility’s area is capped by law. Lawmakers have revisited net-metering caps as the solar industry has bumped up against the ceiling in the National Grid service area.

The state now has 1,208 megawatts of installed solar capacity, according to the Department of Energy Resources, up from just a handful of megawatts about a decade ago.

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