Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 15, 2012

Clipper ship town converting to solar power



 The sun's energy is powering televisions, stereos, appliances and coffee pots throughout this seaside Massachusetts community known for building wind-powered clipper ships in the 19th century.

Local officials said more than 60 homes and businesses now get their electricity from solar panels, with many coming online in the past six months under a state program to encourage the use of solar energy.

That's still only a fraction of the 8,000 households and businesses in the community of 17,000.

But Jill Haley Murphy, coordinator of the program, said there's "tremendous interest" in converting to solar energy in a place that gained worldwide recognition in the mid-1800s by building square-rigged clipper ships to sail goods to and from China.

The program provides property owners with discounts on solar panel installation, and the discounts get more attractive as more people sign up.

Haley Murphy said the community's sun-powered electricity represents an energy capacity of more than 423 kilowatts.

Not everyone who wanted a solar array got one. Many, including Haley Murphy, had trouble with shade, roof lines or how their homes were positioned to the sun.

Newburyport was one of of 17 cities and towns where the "Solarize Massachusetts" program focused attention this year.

In 2012, the program sparked 802 solar projects throughout the state - good for about 5.1 megawatts of power, officials said.

The state program hopes to arrange for the installation of 250 megawatts worth of solar panels by 2017. That's enough to power about 55,000 homes for a year, officials said.


Details for this story were reported by the Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.