Connecticut Town To Solarize Wastewater Plant

When it comes to municipal energy use, wastewater treatment plants are one of the biggest energy hogs. Municipalities in Arizona and California have turned to on-site photovoltaic (PV) systems to help lower the energy costs of wastewater treatment plants. Now, that trend has reached the East Coast – specifically, the town of Vernon, Conn.

Vernon recently announced plans to install a nearly 1MW photovoltaic system to power its wastewater treatment plant. The proposed array – with a capacity just barely shy of a megawatt, at 999.36 kilowatts – is expected to save the town about $130,000 per year. Greenskies Renewable Energy, a Middletown-based solar design, finance, engineering and construction firm, will own and operate the solar plant, and sell the power generated to the town. Greenskies has also developed several large PV projects in Massachusetts and New Jersey, including 1.4 MW for Walmart and 1.2 MW for Target stores in New Jersey.


image via NREL

The Vernon plant, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2012, will not generate enough energy to completely cover the entire energy consumption of the wastewater treatment plant. The town will still need to purchase energy from TransCanada and Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P). The system size was determined by the space available, but Vernon Mayor George F. Apel said in a statement that the solar setup still represents a big step in the right direction for the town.

“The potential for long-term growth in energy improvement and reductions in energy costs are limitless,” Apel said. “I commend the EID Board for leading our town into an era of energy efficiency and green power.”

Statewide, Connecticut aims to generate 27 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020. The state has recently selected two 5-MW projects through a competitive bidding process. Authorized under a 2010 energy bill, the DEEP Renewable Generation Program enables the state to leverage private capital and federal tax incentives by selecting 30 MW of privately financed renewable energy capacity for development. The project developers will be eligible to enter into 20-year power purchase agreements with CL&P and United Illuminating at a rate of 22.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. In addition to the DEEP projects, the utilities will need to account for 20 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2020.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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