Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Local News

Essex Community to Harness the Sun for Energy

When the temperatures rise this summer, Essex Meadows, a retirement community, will offset an increased amount of its energy consumption with several new solar arrays.

The project, recently approved by the Essex Zoning Commission, allows for a total of 1,578 new solar panels at the facility. Panels will be affixed on the roof, on the ground, and atop a new 10-bay carport that will house four electric vehicle chargers.

With an already-existing array of 617 solar roof panels, the overall system will offset 27.59 percent, or 673,981 kWh, of the community’s electric usage in year one, according to the company spearheading the project, Hartford-based solar developer Verogy.

This amount “would offset the energy used by 55 homes a year,” said Steve DeNino, co-founder and chief operating officer at Verogy.

In addition to reducing the cost of electricity, the project “protects them against rising utility rates and provides onsite renewable resources,” adds DeNino.

“It’s very much an economical, business decision, but it is also consistent with our …culture of sustainability, of which we are [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED] gold certified,” said Essex Meadows Executive Director Jennifer Rannestad.

The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED standards in 1995 to encourage environmentally beneficial and sustainable practices in the construction of buildings.

In order to meet gold certification, credits are earned by the participating organization to meet environmentally friendly criteria in building materials, water efficiency, or indoor air quality, to give a few examples.

Essex Meadows has been using solar energy for the past decade.

“Twelve years ago, we put a solar array on our flat roof, and we’ve had very good luck with it, so we decided to do a sales call to investigate the newest opportunity to expand our solar array,” said Rannestad. “We have 250 people living here with lots of activities and full services, so we naturally use a lot of electricity.”

Essex Meadows, which is purchasing the new panels, as opposed to leasing, will recover the cost of its expenditure in 10 years.

This is “with a combination of saving money on the electric bill and…an incentive from the utility company,” said Rannestad.

The facility plans to use a back-meadow area of its property that is adjacent to a sewage treatment plant for the project.

“No existing trees will be cut down,” said Rannestad. “We’re very lucky. It’s a perfect spot for it.”

Construction will conclude “by the beginning of summer,” said Rannestad. “We expect that we’ll be able to generate electricity in June.”

Another local organization that worked with Verogy to reap the benefits of solar is the L.C. Doane Company in Ivoryton, a manufacturer of submarine, surface ship, and commercial lighting.

Verogy expanded an existing solar system atop the roof of L.C. Doane that was installed in 2008, to help supply electricity to the company’s 150,000-square-foot factory.

It added more than 200kW of electricity to the existing apparatus, according to a written statement from L.C. Doane.

“I expect it to perform as well or better than what we had in 2008,” L.C. Doane Vice President Bill Psillos told the Courier. “With the cost of electricity, it made sense for us to evaluate it. We do consume a lot of energy here in our manufacturing, so this was really not a hard decision to make.”

The addition of new panels was funded, in part, through the state’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy financing, which is administered through the Connecticut Green Bank.

The Connecticut Green Bank offers several financing options for building owners seeking energy upgrades, helping to spur the use of solar projects much like Essex Meadows and L.C. Doane throughout the state.

The state ranks 19th nationally in terms of total solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at

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