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04/13/2022 09:07 AM

Approved Solar Lease Underway to Construction at Former Landfill

The construction of a solar array on the unfilled landfill on town property between the Transfer Station and Town Garage in Deep River is set for completion in 2023. The array will be constructed by the Hartford-based solar company Verogy, and income derived by the town will be used to offset the power used by the five major municipal energy consumers in town.

The authorization of the 725-kilowatt system was approved by the town on March 9 for construction by Verogy, which responded to a request for proposal (RFP) sent out by the town in October 2021. The company’s efforts in drafting its approved proposal were spearheaded by Brian Smith, Verogy’s chief legal officer and one of its co-founders.

“Solar is a great opportunity for a municipality to make use of the landfill, and to bring in some additional revenue and energy savings for the town. Basically, they can use a portion of that land that would be difficult to do anything else with,” Smith said. “That’s kind of the benefit of solar on these landfill type sites.”

Verogy has worked with numerous municipalities in the state of Connecticut on solar projects, including the installation of panels on the roof of the town hall building of West Hartford, and on a senior center in East Haven. Along with Deep River, Verogy is also working on the construction of solar installations on former landfills in the towns of Killingly and Mansfield.

Smith noted that the RFP sent out by the town initially started as a power purchase agreement (PPA), but through that agreement structure, the revenue generated from the project for the town would not be consistent.

“The amount of energy or savings that the town can experience might fluctuate year over year. different every month, every year. They might have a curve of energy savings,” said Smith.

The RFP released by the town also originally considered placing separate arrays at its largest consumers, concluding that the construction of a larger array would be a safer and more economic strategy, with Smith citing concerns that could arise from the installation of panels of the new roofing project for Deep River Elementary, and the lack of area to properly install panels due to topographic limitations.

This led to a lease agreement between the town and the company for construction of the array on the former landfill, under which Verogy will pay Deep River a fixed lease price of $43,001 annually for the next 20 years, with no additional cost to the town. The lease payment was calculated in lieu of credits that would offset electric bills of the five greatest energy users in town, including the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), Deep River Elementary School, and the library.

Verogy bid their proposal through the Non-Residential Renewable Energy Solutions (NRES) program, a successor incentive program to the LREC/ZREC program that ran in Connecticut for the previous 10 years. According to Smith, state-level incentive programs, especially in the New England region, are needed to support the development of solar and work for clients

“It’s much different here than in a state like Arizona. You get enough sunlight in Arizona where you don’t have state-level incentives and you don’t need them,” he said.

The 725kW system will consist of 1,344 panels, each generating 540 watts. While an exact date of completion is yet to be determined, both Smith and First Selectman Angus McDonald have an expected timeframe of one year, sometime in 2023, once construction has begun.

“You go through all the development processes that go into getting all the necessary permits and approvals that you need to build a solar project, which is a little more involved if you want to put it on a closed landfill,” said Smith.

Smith noted that Verogy will need to go through the standard procedures of receiving approval from the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection for the use of a closed landfill property, particularly so that nothing obstructive or harmful can seep out from or penetrate the landfill. In order to avoid penetrating the landfill and damaging caps meant to maintain contaminated materials, panels will rest upon ballasted systems that will sit on the ground and be weighed by concrete balance ballast blocks, preventing any harmful materials uplifting from the ground, such as possibly rising due to strong wind, according to Smith.

The array will be enclosed within a fence line to which only Verogy and the town would have access.

“We’re pretty excited to move forward,” said Smith. “Landfills are prime opportunities for solar because what else are you going to put on landfill?”