Here comes the sun

We’re not fond of taking sides in politics.

But we do like to note when something works.  Especially when that something results in more projects, more PM jobs, and a better outcome for this particular 3rd- rock-from-the-sun.

Today’s Boston Globe newspaper has a short but powerful (excuse the pun) story about how Massachusetts – not exactly the Sunshine State – is tied for second place in the US with Hawaii for the lead in solar projects.  And the reason, at least partially, is subsidies from the government of the Commonwealth.  See the included chart on the left for the top states in the USA, and the chart on the right to see the (cloudy) truth about Massachusetts, in terms of weather.

From the story, here are some extracts.  We strongly encourage you to read the whole thing at the Globe’s site.

Massachusetts is no California when it comes to sun. But that isn’t stopping the solar energy industry from flourishing here.

Massachusetts, better known for long, cold winters, gloomy springs, and gale-driven nor’easters, is undergoing an unlikely solar power boom, attracting solar companies from around the country that are installing systems for homeowners, businesses, and institutions.

Only California has a better solar market than Massachusetts, which tied Hawaii in rankings by Ernst & Young, the Big Four accounting firm that tracks the alternative energy industry. Massachusetts was the only northern state to crack Ernst & Young’s top 10, beating Florida (the Sunshine State), Arizona (home of the Sun Devils), and New Mexico (sun symbol on the state flag).

Here’s an example of one success story:

SolarCity of San Mateo, ­Calif., a six-year-old installation company with 1,800 employees nationwide, entered the Massachusetts market in early 2011. The company installs solar panels at no cost to customers, then sells them power generated by the system, which SolarCity continues to own. The company is then able to take advantage of federal and state subsidies.

Ed Steins, SolarCity’s regional director, said the company already services more than 800 residential and commercial buildings in Massachusetts and has tripled its local staff to 45 from 15 since September.

Among SolarCity’s customers is Tom McDougall, 53, of Whitman. SolarCity installed a 6-kilowatt system on the roof of McDougall’s two-story Colonial. Since the system began operating in February, McDougall said, he has cut his electricity bills in half, paying SolarCity about $60 a month for electricity, compared with the $115 a month, on average, that he paid his utility.

Analysts at Ernst & Young, which does the comparative study of the states, has good insight on the story.


Again, from the story:

“It’s not a matter of how sunny it is,” said Michael Bernier, a senior manager at Ernst & Young. The “thing Massachusetts has been really good at is setting up an environment that helps renewable energy projects get done.”

That environment starts with New England’s traditionally high energy costs that can make photovoltaic systems more competitive here. Meanwhile, the falling solar panel prices, which have plunged more than 50 percent in the past two years, have combined with solar-friendly local policies to make solar installations even more attractive to homeowners and businesses.

So, perhaps the ‘environment’ – in this case, the business/political environment – has a more profound effect on solar projects that previously thought.  If that’s the case, as a project manager, you ought to be at least considering the support of regulations and incentives to bring more solar power to your state or territory.

Land (fill) Fulfillment


On EarthPM’s Rainbow of Green (see our book), this one may be off the scale, on the Green By Definition side.

Here is the first line from today’s Boston Globe story on the subject:

“A Canton landfill closed for more than two decades will soon be transformed into New England’s largest solar electric development, officials are expected to announce today.”

You can read the whole story here.

For those who are not familiar with our book, we have a chapter dedicated to a scale – or spectrum – or rainbow, of project types that range from “Green By Definition”, to “Green in General”.  Those which are “Green in General” are your everyday projects that don’t have that obvious connection to the envrironment or sustainability.  For example, creating a new release of payroll software.  Not intuitively “green”.  Of course, our assertion is that even in such a project there are things one can do to improve sustainability.  But that’s a story for another post.  In fact, our very next post.  So stay tuned, you Writers of Payroll Software, you Warriors of IT Development, your turn awaits.

This post is about the other side of the scale – Green By Definition.

Here we have a landfill in Canton, Massachusetts which will be the site of 24,000 solar panels installed across 15 acres — think 11 football fields — and this project, when completed, will be able to power more than 750 homes.  It will be three times larger than any other solar facility not just in Massachusetts, but in the six-state region that is New England.

“The land was just going to sit there forever,’’ said local selectman John J. Connolly. “This is a no-brainer.’’

So here we have a landfill truly fulfilling a higher calling.  The land underneath, harboring waste, the surface above generating 5.6 megawatts of power.

What does our Green Rainbow say about this?

The project manager who takes on this project will not have to spend a lot of time drawing attention to greenality.  Green thinking and focus on the environment is already in the mindset of the team.  This doesn’t solve all of his or her problems but it makes that aspect of their job easier.  Here’s an article from the local press showing the kind of attention the project gets even amongst townspeople.

We hope this project takes off.  It’s a great way for a landfill to fulfill its promise, and it’s yet another opportunity for a project team to show its stuff!