Freda shines light on nearly completed solar panels at former North Haven landfill

By Kate Ramunni, Middletown Press

NORTH HAVEN - A long-shuttered landfill will soon contribute to decreasing what the town spends on running its


Solar panels being installed as seen from the North Haven Water Pollution Control Facility. (Peter Hvizdak - New Haven Register).

sewage treatment plant.

Solar panels are being installed at the former dump on Universal Drive and by spring, those panels will be providing energy to the Water Pollution Control Facility, according to First Selectman Michael Freda.

“This is a project we started working on about three and a half years ago,” Freda said. “One of the things that we identified and one of my initiatives in town was taking underutilized land space that may exist that’s been dormant for decades and try to find a productive use for that type of land parcel. So we identified the old town landfill which was shut down decades ago.”

Another of his goals is to reduce the amount the town spends on energy, Freda said, so using the former landfill to produce solar power used in town facilities fulfills two goals.

“Working with the town and our Clean Energy Task Force, we are trying to produce more solar power options,” he said. “We identified the town landfill as a potential site where we could install solar panels.”

The town partnered with GreenSkies Renewable Energy LLC, a Connecticut company that designs, engineers and constructs solar panel systems.

“We negotiated a deal where the town entered what’s called a power purchase agreement where we agreed to buy power over a 15-20 year period for a price that is much cheaper than what the current utility rates are,” Freda said.

The company has worked with the state and the town for the past three and a half years, he said, and installation of the panels began last spring.

“What we see emerging on top of the old landfill on Universal Drive is the panels being constructed,” Freda said. “These panels and this infrastructure represents no cost to the town. Our contract with Green Skies is a power purchase agreement where we agree to buy the power over a long period of time.”

The goal is to eventually create a one-megawatt operation at the landfill, Freda said, but it will start with producing 0.384 megawatts.

“It’s over a third of a megawatt,” he said. “Our goal will be working with Green Skies and working with the United Illuminating Company and working with the state to establish a virtual meter network where the power generated from the panels on top of the landfill will be used to offset energy costs at the town’s largest energy user facility, which is the Water Pollution Control Authority.”

However, that is just the short-term goal, Freda said.

“My goal longer term is to increase this site to a one-megawatt facility, and the goal beyond that is to expand beyond one megawatt,” he said. “The by-product of those goals will be to create more virtual meter networks to other buildings that the town owns to offset that energy cost that will help save the taxpayers dollars. It’s a very exciting project.”

It’s also a groundbreaking project, he said.

“At the time we entered into the contract, we were one of only three or four municipalities in the state that moved forward with this,” he said. “Now, as a result of this, there are other municipalities looking into doing this. It’s a wonderful way to establish more solar power and to offset energy costs and to save the taxpayers a significant amount of money over the long term.”

The panels are expected to save $1.2 million over the life of the 17-year contract, he said.

The panels are completely maintained by Green Skies, Freda said, so there is no cost to the town aside from purchasing the power produced.

“Any updates in terms of technology or any panels that need repair or any infrastructure improvements are handled by Green Skies as part of our agreement,” he said.

The WPCA is located next to the former landfill so it made sense to use the power there, Freda said.

“The plant itself is a tremendous energy user because it accepts sewage from across the town and then transfers that into clean water and there’s a great deal of energy expended during that process,” he said, “So the solar park will be metered to the Water Pollution Control Authority to help offset some of those energy costs.”

There’s also room to expand on the landfill site, Freda said.

“I’m always interested in expanding, and although this is a very lofty goal, I would love to be able to continue to expand to help our residents in North Haven,” he said.

In the meantime, the town is going out for a request for proposals from residential solar companies that would allow residents to negotiate solar for their own homes, he said.

The amount they would pay would be “based not on the price they would have gotten on their own but the price the town negotiated based on its aggregate purchasing power,” Freda said. “They get the benefit of the town negotiating the price for them and then work directly with the solar companies.”

Despite the recent developments, solar power may not make sense for all town buildings, he said.

“A lot of the efficiency of solar power is based on the angle of the roofs versus the angle of the sun during peek hours,” he said. “If there’s a town building that has a large degree of shade to it at peak times during the day, you would not want to have a power purchase agreement on a building where the solar panels are not in a peak position. The answer is to identify those buildings where the angle of the roofs and the angle of the sun are such that it would be advantageous.”