Stonington looking into solar energy to reduce costs at sewage plants

Westerly Sun | Staff
March 29, 2017

STONINGTON — In an effort to cut costs, the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority is looking into the possibility of putting solar arrays at two of the town’s wastewater treatment plants.

Director Doug Nettleton said that a company called Greenskies, based in Middletown, has done a study to see whether solar panels would be viable at the Pawcatuck treatment plant or the waterfront Borough treatment plant.

Although the town owns the Borough plant and currently dedicates space there for a dog park, the authority manages the waterfront property.

“The board has to do whatever it can to cut costs and if this will save a lot of money and have a good yield then it’s worth it,” Nettleton said. “We specifically had the company come down and look at the Pawcatuck site, where there’s plenty of room for expansion, but figured I’d have him look at the Borough site as well while they were here to see if it’s a viable option.”

Based on estimations from Greenskies, the town could save around $870,000 over a 20-year period if it were to install solar arrays at one or both of the treatment plants.

The treatment plant in Mystic is too small for any solar arrays. From Greenskies’ estimates, the Pawcatuck plant has space for double the amount of solar panels the Borough plant could handle.

At the moment, the electricity used to run the three aging treatment plants is one of the highest expenses for the department. Nettleton said the department is trying to do whatever it can to lower costs for ratepayers. Last year, the department announced that rates to residents using the sewage system would be going up ten percent as they hadn’t gone up in nine years.

“We’ve got to cut costs and if this is a viable approach then we think it could be worthwhile,” he said. “If it turns out that we only want to use one site, then we can do that as well. It’s not all or nothing.”

One of the benefits to working with Greenskies is that the company absorbs the upfront costs and takes the cost of the project out of the savings yielded by the solar panels, which makes the idea even more appealing, Nettleton said.

On Tuesday night, a representative from the company was expected to make a presentation on the findings to the Water Pollution Control Authority Board.