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National Lab 'Flips Switch' on East Coast's Largest Solar Array

November 21, 2011 - 12:16pm

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An aerial view of the 32-megawatt photovoltaic array of the Long Island Solar Farm, which will produce enough energy to power up to 4,500 local homes. The central Brookhaven National Laboratory campus is seen at left.

An aerial view of the 32-megawatt photovoltaic array of the Long Island Solar Farm, which will produce enough energy to power up to 4,500 local homes. The central Brookhaven National Laboratory campus is seen at left.

On Friday, the Energy Department's Brookhaven National Laboratory "flipped the switch" on the largest solar photovoltaic array in the eastern United States. The 164,312 solar panels hosted at the Lab in New York State -- one of the largest solar farms built on federal property in the nation -- will produce enough energy to power up to 4,500 homes.

The 32-megawatt Long Island Solar Farm (LISF) Project, a collaborative project between the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and BP Solar International, Inc. (BP Solar), also boasts the smallest carbon footprint of any solar array with its amount of output. The use of an Energy Department site has helped attract investments from public and private sources, ensuring the economic success of the project and serving the nation's goal to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

"The result is a significant source of clean energy for Long Island, as well as a positive economic impact for the local workforce and businesses," said Mike Petrucci, CEO of BP Solar, noting that a true "team effort" contributed to the successful development and construction of the project. LIPA chief operating officer Michael D. Hervey also said that the project will help New York state meet its goal of 30 percent renewable resources by 2015, in addition to the "creation of new, high-quality energy jobs."

In addition to providing thousands of Long Island homes and businesses with clean, renewable electricity, this impressive solar array will also offer Brookhaven Lab scientists a unique opportunity to study the challenges of deploying large-scale solar power installations in the northeastern U.S. These include the variable weather conditions, which impact the array’s output on an hour-by-hour or even minute-by-minute basis. Doon Gibbs, Brookhaven Lab’s deputy director for science & technology, said, "Understanding these local ‘microclimate’ effects will help us reliably integrate power from intermittent sources -- like solar and wind -- into the electric grid, and advance state and national renewable energy goals.”

Co-owned by BP Solar and MetLife through Long Island Solar Farm LLC, LISF will introduce approximately 50 gigawatt-hours per year of clean, Long Island-based renewable energy into LIPA’s electric grid. This also means the reduction of carbon emissions by 30,000 metric tons per year.  These environmental benefits, combined with a thoughtful and comprehensive stakeholder engagement approach, helped the project earn the Best Photovoltaic Project of Year Award from the New York Solar Energy Industries Association, further illustrating that the LISF project sets the gold standard for innovative, sustainable development.

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