Middletown Council Approves Solar Deal For Water Treatment Plant

Hartford Courant | Shawn R. Beals
May 2, 2017

Construction will begin soon on a solar array estimated to provide about 75 percent of the power needed to run the drinking water treatment system at the Mount Higby reservoir.

The common council approved an agreement in April with Greenskies Renewable Energy to build the 217-kilowatt solar system with 714 photovoltaic panels. The city will pay Greenskies a fixed rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour over the life of the 20-year contract, providing an estimated savings of $14,000 in electricity costs each year, city and company officials said.

Greenskies said it expects the system to be operational by the end of the summer.

The equipment will be built on city property to provide power to the Charles B. Bacon Water Treatment Plant at the reservoirs near the city line with Meriden.

The city and Greenskies had a previous agreement for the same property in 2014. The council approved the agreement at that time, but the deal was never signed and has been renegotiated since then.

"This project offers a model for the city of Middletown in which we can fix our delivered electricity unit costs at a substantially reduced rate for the next 20 years," Mayor Daniel Drew said in a statement. "We think applying this model across all city and Board of Education buildings is an important and attractive option to pursue."

Drew said the city has looked at a number of sites for potential solar options, and the Higby location is the best one so far. Middletown will continue to pursue renewable energy, he said.

"The taxpayer saves money and we treat our environment well," Drew said. "We're a greener city than most. Knowing that we're cleaning our water through renewable energy is really satisfying."

Generating 272,000 kilowatt-hours each year of clean power with the solar panels will forgo significant emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide associated with electricity generation by utilities, said city Energy Coordinator Michael Harris.

"It's one more step toward adding some robustness to our energy infrastructure," Harris said Tuesday. "Food, water and energy resilience is key, so to have renewable energy as part of our water infrastructure for the city is important."

The arrangement is the second deal the city has signed with Greenskies to generate solar power. In 2014, the company installed a solar roof on the R.M. Keating Historical Enterprise Park, formerly known as the Remington Rand building, on Johnson Street in the North End.

Last year, Greenskies completed a 750-kilowatt solar array for Wesleyan University's campus microgrid.

Marc Silvestrini, Greenskies' director of communications, said the company now has contracts with about a dozen municipalities or school districts in Connecticut and two in Massachusetts, and is in negotiations with more in both states. It was also selected as an approved solar contractor for two of five regions in New York state, he said.

Greenskies in 2016 was named one of the top 10 solar businesses in the country by energy-industry publication Solar Power World. It has contracts all over the country, including agreements to put solar panels on top of nearly 200 Target and Wal-Mart stores.