Solar panels on New Haven’s horizon

Yale Daily News | Ashna Gupta
January 24, 2018

Eleven New Haven schools will soon sport rooftop solar arrays, which will allow New Haven to lower its annual electric costs and bump up clean, renewable energy at no cost to the city.

These solar arrays, designed by Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC, will be finished by April 1. James Desantos, vice president of business development and government relations at Greenskies, said the solar installation process began when the city put out an RFP — or “request for proposal” asking businesses to offer solutions to a problem — in the interest of incorporating solar energy in New Haven Public Schools. After Greenskies was selected to pursue the project, the company chose 11 New Haven schools based on their roof size and suitability to the solar arrays. The solar panels will offset over 2.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the energy equivalent of taking about 280 cars off the New Haven streets. The solar energy will also save the Elm City money because of its discounted rate compared to traditional utility costs.

“New Haven is proud about this installation of solar arrays, which will more than double its solar generation capacity to 2.8 megawatts,” Mayor Toni Harp wrote in a Greenskies press release on Jan. 23. “It’ll showcase the city’s determination to lead by example, and provide for students at these 11 schools a hands-on lesson about how renewable power can save literally tons of carbon emissions each year.”

City spokesman Laurence Grotheer told the News that the installation is part of Harp’s initiative to increase the city’s use of renewable energy and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

According to Desantos, the cost structure of the project is a 15-year power purchasing agreement in which Greenskies will maintain the solar arrays, which are owned by Clean Focus, for a decade and a half. When the agreement ends, the city will decide whether it wants to renew its contract or ask Greenskies to remove the arrays.

However, there is darkness on the solar horizon. This project is coming to fruition at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration has increased tariffs on imported solar products. Martha Klein, the chair for the Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club, a grassroots organization involved in many environmentalist campaigns in the state and country, rebuked Trump for the tariffs, stating that they would make solar technology “much more expensive.”

“Government should be helping this industry to grow so that it can compete with other subsidized energies, but instead government looks like it’s trying to stamp its foot on the neck of the solar industry,” Klein said.

Desantos said that more than 90 percent of the solar industry imports solar products, including Greenskies. The tariffs would decrease town and state revenue, as well as limit jobs in the solar sector. But Desantos added that states could combat the effect of this tariff if they incentivize solar within their borders.

He specifically pointed to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program, which employs a feed-in tariff system, compensating energy producers for the energy they put back into the system. Desantos noted that green energy is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Connecticut but said the state should employ something akin to the feed-in tariff to continue its growth.

Greenskies was founded in 2008.