NORTH ADAMS -- When a new 460 kW photovoltaic array on six rooftops is completed this spring at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the museum will begin sourcing about 25 percent of its electricity from solar power, with an estimated yearly savings of about $10,000 to $25,000.
"Late last year we entered into a power purchase agreement and roof lease with Tecta Solar," Blair Benjamin, director of real estate and community development at Mass MoCA, said Thursday. "They own the panels, and we purchase the energy at a significantly reduced price. Tecta Solar has financed the project; we're the customers. It will mean a significant shift of our power consumption from the regular ‘grid' to on-site generation. The amount of savings we'll actually see will depend on how much lower the rate is compared to the rate of traditional electricity."
The project, when completed, will be spread across the roofs of buildings 4, 5, 7, 10, 11 and 13.
"Not every bit of rooftop will be used," Benjamin said. "It all depends on the shape and orientation of the roofs. Some are ideal, and others aren't because of the orientation or because of structural obstructions. There will be a total of 1,750 modules spread across the rooftops."
This will be the second photovoltaic array to be located at Mass MoCA. In 2007, a 51-kilowatt solar array was installed on the roof of Building 5, as part of an art installation by artist Michael Oatman. The array, which is owned by the museum, was supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust.
In 2010, the museum had partnered with AM Solar Corp. for a planned 199.52-kilowatt solar array, slated for installation on the roof of Building 6.
The array was to be partially financed by $162,250 in federal stimulus funds awarded as part of the state's Commonwealth Solar Stimulus rebate program
"We tried to move that project forward, but AM Solar was not able to do it for various financing reasons, we went back to the drawing board and began looking for other partners who would be willing to do a large scale solar project," he said.
Benjamin said the Commonwealth Solar Stimulus rebate program award was forfeited and the funds returned to the state when the AM Solar project fell through.
"Tecta had to do some difficult engineering and secure the financing, which took some time, but we're pleased Tecta moved it forward," he said. "They are deep into installation and we should begin power generating within a few months."
Tecta Solar is also partnered with the town of Adams and is currently finalizing plans for the construction of a 1.1-megawatt solar array at the town's former landfill.
The new solar array has been part of the museum's long-range energy-efficiency plan, which began in 2007.
"We're very cognizant of our energy consumption and the history of this plant, which has constantly been threatened by energy costs," Benjamin said. "A small part of the demise of its two former owners, the Arnold Print Works and Sprague Electric Co., was uncontrolled energy costs."
After seeing annual energy bills rise from about $200,000 to $800,000 from 1999 to 2007, museum officials began looking for ways to reduce that bill, as well as its carbon footprint. Recent upgrades have brought that figure back down to roughly $500,000 a year.
"Over the last five years, we've made a lot of changes, but most of them are not so visible, such as our heating and ventilation and lighting upgrades," Benjamin said.
In 2010, the museum received $800,000 in federal stimulus funds to install a biomass boiler and launch an energy-efficiency upgrade. The boiler, which uses renewable wood-pellet fuel, decreased the museum's reliance on natural gas. In addition, the museum also installed high volume/low speed fans for greater air distribution and advanced lighting controls, reducing its electrical use by 25 percent.
Another 15 percent of the costs were stripped last year when the museum replaced over 1,000 lighting fixtures in its galleries, performance spaces and public areas with ceramic metal halide fixtures and began using LED and compact fluorescent lights.
But that's not the end of the plans for the museum, which recently installed two 1-kilowatt vertical-axis wind turbines on top of the former Sprague Electric Co. power plant.
"They're not connected to the electrical grid yet, but we expecting to get the green light from National Grid very soon," Benjamin said. "They won't generate much power, since they're small scale, but we really love the symbolism of them. They're affixed to the building where the boiler plant's old smoke stacks used to be."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email