Larger Solar Coming to Smaller Eastern States: Connecticut Water Treatment Facility and Vermont Landfill Go Solar


Large solar installations are announced in Connecticut and Vermont. The 1 MW installation at a Connecticut water treatment facility is one of the largest in the state. The 2.7 MW Vermont project will be sited at the only active landfill in the state.

Large solar plants are becoming more common in the western United States. Ivanpah in California was prominent in the news earlier this year, and today we had news of the largest solar PV plant in the world coming online, in Arizona.

While large solar on the East Coast doesn’t get quite that large, some of the smaller states on that side of the country are also getting their share of good-sized solar installations. Two announcements came out today about new arrays in Connecticut and Vermont. Both are taking advantages of large areas, in one case already compromised land, for the installations.


Hamden, Connecticut water treatment facility


Solar provider SolarCity and the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA), a not-for-profit organization supplying water and related services to about 430,000 consumers in 15 communities, announced the completion of a 1 MW solar array at an RWA facility in Hamden. The ground-mounted solar system uses more than 4,000 solar panels, making it one of the largest in the state.


SolarCity installed, financed, and will maintain the array for the RWA. The RWA will save money by paying less for the solar power than they’re currently paying for utility power, passing on those savings to customers.


“This solar photovoltaic system, one of the largest of its kind in Connecticut, will allow the Authority to be more efficient and lower our energy costs. These savings are passed on to our customers in the form of reduced rate increases,” said Larry L. Bingaman, the Regional Water Authority’s President and CEO.


The ground-mounted system is expected to provide more than 1.4 million kilowatt-hours of energy each year. The project supports the RWA’s strategic goals of operating more efficiently and promoting environmental sustainability and fosters the Town of Hamden’s “Clean and Green” initiative. In keeping with the RWA’s sustainability goals, the project will reduce RWA’s carbon footprint by 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually. That’s the equivalent of planting 22,600 trees.


The array is made up of 332 strings of 13 panels each and will provide over 80% of the energy used at the water treatment facility, or enough to power more than 120 average-sized Connecticut homes.


The system is the culmination of two years of effort. It was made possible through the CT Renewable Energy Credit Program, in conjunction with United Illuminating, the Town of Hamden, SolarCity, and a dedicated staff of professionals.


Coventry, Vermont active landfill site


Solar provider Borrego Solar Systems Inc. announced that it has partnered with Soltage Greenwood, a joint venture between Greenwood Energy and Soltage LLC, to develop a solar project for Casella Waste Systems on its Coventry, Vermont landfill site. This will be the largest project of its kind in Vermont.


The 2.7 MW project will sell power to Vermont Electric Power Producers Inc. (VEPP Inc.), a purchasing agent appointed by the Vermont Public Service Board, under Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development (SPEED) Standard Offer Program — one of the nation’s first feed-in-tariff programs. The project, initiated by Casella Waste Systems with ownership transferred to Borrego Solar in November 2013, is being designed and built by Borrego Solar and financed by Greenwood Energy.


The system is expected to generate approximately 3,199 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power 261 homes for an entire year.


“I am very proud that in three years we have more than tripled the amount of solar energy in Vermont, leading to our number one ranking nationally in solar jobs per capita,” said Governor Peter Shumlin. “Coventry is already home to a successful landfill gas energy project, and now the Coventry landfill solar array will add another 2.7 megawatts of renewable energy to the grid. This project is making productive use of this site, and is another example of how solar benefits Vermont’s economy and our environment.”


Now in its construction phase, the 9,018-panel ground-mount solar array will be installed on the site’s buffer zone, which is not slated for waste. The site currently hosts the only active landfill in the state, as well as an 8 MW gas-to-energy generating facility that uses the methane captured from both the active and capped sections of the landfill.


“Greenwood Energy has been a strong partner in solar energy development in the region. This is our third project together and we’re very proud to install Vermont’s first landfill solar project, especially as we’ve seen landfill solar installations become a rising trend across the country,” said Joe Harrison, project developer at Borrego Solar. “The site’s vacant buffer distance offers the perfect opportunity to put otherwise unused land to productive, clean energy-generating use. With our proven track record of solar project development around the country, this project is the first of many installations Borrego Solar hopes to bring to Vermont.”


Borrego has already developed and installed 17.3 MW of solar energy capacity on seven active and capped landfills in the U.S. Landfills and their buffer lands make especially compelling locations for solar energy systems as they are generally close to interconnection systems and are built on already disrupted and cleared land — as in the typical case of a capped landfill — or in vacant buffer zones — as with the Coventry site. Demand for financing landfill installations through power purchase agreements (PPAs) is also rising.