From garbage to green - solar farm coming to Meriden landfill

Published September 05, 2013 | Last Modified November 01, 2013
By Dan Brechlin Record-Journal staff

MERIDEN — Just a few weeks after learning the city did not win a bid to put three acres of solar panels on the city’s landfill, officials received a welcome surprise this week, learning that the project will still happen in the near future.

Energy Task Force Chairman Stephen Montemurro learned Tuesday afternoon the city’s bid for a solar farm had been accepted as part of the Low and Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit Program through Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating. The highly competitive program was created under 2011 legislation to encourage clean and renewable energy projects.

“I was really disappointed we didn’t get it because I put in two and a half to three years on this project, so to see it slip through again was discouraging,” Montemurro said about the city’s second attempt to construct the solar farm. “Thankfully, that’s all in the past. This is good news for the city of Meriden. The task force is coming to the forefront in the city’s effort to go green.”

The city contractually teamed with Middletown-based Greenskies Renewable Energy to make a bid for the project that could save the city between $870,000 and $2.3 million over the next 20 years, Montemurro said. The panels would generate renewable photovoltaic energy, which would offset energy costs associated with running the neighboring water pollution control facility on Evansville Avenue.

In reviewing the project and how awarding is made, Montemurro said that none of the contracts are a done deal even after the initial round of selections. It is possible, he said, for other projects to fall through, though Montemurro knew Meriden’s solar farm had been close making the cut.

Michael Silvestrini, president of Greenskies, explained that unlike a sporting event, there is not always a clear cut winner and loser in the bidding process. After bids are submitted, various market changes can happen, as well as various other factors. Having found out Tuesday, the Meriden project has already been incorporated into the Greenskies development schedule, Silvestrini said.

“This is a priority project for us,” he said. “We are looking forward to breaking ground. The engineering will commence immediately.” 

The city will have to go through its usual approvals processes by local boards and commissions, but Silvestrini noted that the project makes sense, given it will be on an unused landfill straddling the Meriden-Wallingford town line.

“The land would otherwise be unusable,” Silvestrini said. “No one is going to put a casino on top of the landfill. Instead, you can utilize it with a forward-thinking, clean-energy project.”

Silvestrini added that the process is “fiercely competitive” with more contracts being rejected than accepted.

“It ensures that Connecticut is developing solar energy projects, but only the best and most cost-efficient actually happen,” he said.