Energy committee awarded renewable energy credit contracts

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Tue., Mar. 5, 2013
Solar arrays like this installation behind the West Stafford Fire Station, which was an earlier project of the SEAC, create no carbon or mercury emissions. Photo by Annie Gentile.
Solar arrays like this installation behind the West Stafford Fire Station, which was an earlier project of the SEAC, create no carbon or mercury emissions. Photo by Annie Gentile.

Many Stafford residents may have seen the impressive solar arrays installed behind the West Stafford Fire Station and at the Stafford Public Library. These were earlier projects of the Stafford Energy Advisory Committee, an all-volunteer group that has been working for the past three years on energy-saving projects for the town.

Additional solar-electric installations will be getting underway at the high school, the middle school, West Stafford School, and the Stafford Community Center - but with these installations there will be an additional benefit.

“When [Gov. Dannel Malloy] was mayor of Stamford, he promoted a lot of projects that dealt with energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said SEAC Chair Gary Fisher. “Much of our electricity in the state is produced by coal plants, which create carbon and mercury emissions, and there is a big push to make buildings more energy efficient and reduce emissions.”

Fisher said a bill was passed in 2011 that compels utilities to generate a certain amount of their energy through renewable sources. As a result, Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating commercial and municipal customers who install renewable energy projects that emit no pollutants, such as solar-electric arrays, have opportunities to sell zero-emissions renewable energy credits, also known as ZRECs, back to their energy providers over a 15-year period.

“One ZREC is equal to 1,000 kilowatt hours,” said Peter Kovaleski, P.E., an electrical engineer on the committee. “The utility buys the REC, not the electricity,” he said, explaining that those who win a contract with their utility company get not only lower electricity bills from the power produced by the solar panels, but also the added monetary benefit from the sale of ZRECs.

The program turned out to be very popular. “There were 469 applications [for the ZREC program] for the approximately 200 slots available,” said Kovaleski.

Because of the greater number of applications, Connecticut Light and Power established a lottery system for choosing who would get the ZREC contracts. Fisher said the SEAC asked the Brookfield, Conn.-based Ross Solar Group to conduct a survey of Stafford’s municipal and school buildings and then submitted 12 separate building applications for the ZREC lottery.

Fisher said they were recently notified of contract awards for four of the 12 applications, which will be for 100kw each on the high school, middle school, and West Stafford School, and 40kw on the Stafford Community Center.

“Upon approval by all necessary town boards and the taxpayers, each system will generate income for the town,” Fisher said. “From the 100kw systems, we’ll get approximately $18,000 each. The first year we expect a net profit of approximately $4,000 per system on the schools.”

Kovaleski said it is important for residents to understand there is no cash outlay on the town’s part and that over the approximately 25-year life of the system, the town can anticipate saving approximately $1.2 million in energy costs on the three schools and about an additional $160,000 from the Community Center.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles detailing energy and cost-saving measures undertaken by the Stafford Energy Advisory Committee.

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