Governor brings energy to ceremony for Cummings Center's solar panels

BEVERLY – June 1, 2012 — Gov. Deval Patrick went to the top floor of the West Garage of the Cummings Center yesterday afternoon to cut the ribbon on a 366-kilowatt solar power installation.

Touting the state’s investments in clean energy and life sciences, the governor spoke before approximately 100 people, many of them tenants of the Cummings Center.

Cummings Properties President and CEO Dennis Clarke asked the governor “to issue his second biggest endorsement of the week,” referring to Patrick’s backing of Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.

“Governor, we hope that you will label Cummings Center as a shining example of the economic vitality and the responsible business practices that are so alive and well today in the commonwealth,” Clarke said.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Patrick boomed when he got to the podium. “I stand before you proudly to endorse Cummings Center and the whole Cummings organization for their exceptional business stewardship.”

Later, Patrick cut the ribbon on inverters that will convert electricity from the roof panels. He did so with officials from Solectra Renewables of Lawrence, the company that supplied the equipment.

The former United Shoe Machinery Corp. factory was once considered a derelict brownfields site until Cummings Properties purchased it in 1996. Since then, it has been the focus of an $80 million redevelopment. The center has taken on a number of sustainable initiatives lately, the most visible of which are the solar panels on its garage roofs.

The East Garage has an 800-panel, 236-kilowatt solar array, and the West Garage will have 1,250 panels when the project is completed.

“The economics justify the expense,” Cummings Properties founder Bill Cummings said.

It’s the second major solar installation on the campus, and more are planned, Cummings officials said, including panels for a new parking garage to be built by the 500 Building on the north end of the facility that will contain 1,600 panels and 470 kilowatts. All told, solar projects at the center will eventually produce almost 1.5 megawatts.

On hand to greet Patrick were Mayor Bill Scanlon, Vice President and Cummings Center General Manager Stephen Drohosky, and Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry, D-Peabody, among others.

With 40 life sciences firms at the Cummings Center, Patrick also touted the state’s initiatives in that sector. Drohosky pointed out that one of the companies being incubated at the center by the nonprofit North Shore InnoVentures, a firm called HeptoChem, recently got a $300,000 loan from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

Besides the solar panels, Cummings Center has taken steps to cut its energy bills by installing 27 high-efficiency boilers, 12,000 lights retrofitted into energy-efficient fixtures, new energy management controls and an electric car charging station.

By Ethan Forman, Staff writer, The Salem News