Shared Solar Struggles In Connecticut
HARTFORD — (Updated 2:30 p.m.) It could produce 2,580 full-time jobs during construction and $374 million in local economic benefits for the state, according to a new report, but the idea of shared solar hasn’t gotten off the ground in Connecticut.
A new report by Vote Solar, an advocacy group for community or shared solar, found that these types of projects, which require installing solar panels on several acres of land, would not only promote equal access to clean energy, but also jobs and millions in tax revenue.
The report, which was released last week, suggests that policymakers in Hartford can’t ignore $347 million in economic benefits, in addition to $6 million in property tax revenues in the first year of operation.
In 2015, the legislature approved a Shared Solar pilot, but the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection missed its June 1 deadline to award the contract. The DEEP did not respond to requests for comment on the delay, but is currently reviewing proposals for various projects that are capped at 6 megawatts of electricity. The report and the benefits associated are based on 200 megawatt projects.
In the meantime, the group says New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have robust programs.
“While Connecticut legislators work to resolve state budget challenge over the next few months, here is a major opportunity to more than double its solar workforce through a community solar program,” Sean Garren, Northeast Director at Vote Solar, said. “This jobs and economic development report highlights the workforce and private investment opportunities of statewide community solar, and we hope lawmakers take advantage of clean energy as a tool for state prosperity during this summer’s special legislative session.”
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said Connecticut is missing a critical opportunity to grow green jobs by failing to embrace community solar projects across the state.
“We’re frittering away years of momentum on solar installations by sticking to a failed pilot program,” Steinberg said. “Now is the time to correct course and return to sound policies, including a statewide community solar program, which will once again make Connecticut an attractive state for solar projects.”
On Thursday in Simsbury, the community was voicing its opposition to a solar project by Deepwater Wind. The Rhode Island company would begin construction of the 26-megawatt solar farm on farmland in Simsbury in early 2018.
That project is not a shared solar project because the electricity generated would be sold back to the utilities and not the parties involved in building or investing in the solar array.
Even though Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Projection rejected Deepwater Wind’s proposal, it will move forward with regional approval from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It will still have to be approved by the Connecticut Siting Council, but no local approval by the town of Simsbury is necessary.
A bill is awaiting Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s signature would remove some large solar projects from the Siting Council’s current petition process and require them to go through a more demanding application process called a “Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need.”