CT OKs New England's largest future solar farms

Published December 23, 2011 | Last Modified June 1, 2012

The state Department of Energy & Environmental Projection (DEEP) approved the East Lyme Solar Park and the Somers Solar Center, each generating up to five megawatts of electricity.

Price tags to build both projects was not disclosed.

New England's largest solar farm to date is Northeast Utilities' $12 million, 2.2- megawatt Indian Orchard station in Springfield, run by NU's Western Massachusetts Electric Co. unit, that went on line earlier this week. WMECo also runs the 1.8-megawatt Silver Lake solar facility in Pittsfield, Mass.

DEEP approved the East Lyme and Somers projects under an effort to develop 30 megawatts of clean energy in the state.

A total 21 projects representing 70 megawatts were submitted for the DEEP program by the Dec. 16 deadline. Any type of zero-emission technology was eligible, including solar, wind, wave or tidal power and low-impact hydropower.

DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty said the two proposals were chosen because they offered a low price. State officials want to close the gap between the cost of renewable and fossil-fueled power.

The 20-year average cost of power from the two projects will be 22.2 cents per kilowatt hour. The average cost of grid power in Connecticut is 16.1 cents per kilowatt hour.

Virginia-based HelioSage Energy LLC will develop the Somers project. The photovoltaic panels will be sited on 50 acres at 407 South Road and will be operational by November 2013. While expected to have five megawatts of operating capacity, it has a flexible design for capacity between two and five megawatts.

GRE 214 East Lyme LLC will develop the East Lyme Solar Park at 44 Grassy Hill Road. The developer, which owns the site, had intended to install residential homes. That project's operational date was not immediately disclosed.

Both developers will enter into contracts with electric utilities Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating to sell the power.

CL&P and UI are reviewing projects of their own totaling 20 megawatts to have the state meet its 30 megawatt clean energy goal.