Stonington WPCA Offers Preliminary Support for Solar Panels at Treatment Plants

The Day | Joe Wojtas
April 25, 2017

Stonington — The Water Pollution Control Authority voted unanimously Tuesday night to offer its nonbinding support for a plan by Greenskies of Middletown to install hundreds of solar panels at the borough and Pawcatuck sewer treatment plants.

The WPCA’s decision allows Greenskies to apply to the state for energy credits next month. If the application is approved, Greenskies plans to hold public forums to answer questions, design the project and then file applications to obtain zoning permits from the borough and the town planning and zoning commissions. It then would have to sign a contract with the town.

The town would not have to invest any money, as Greenskies would pay all the costs to install the $1.5 million in panels. The town then would save an estimated $535,758 in electricity costs at the Pawcatuck plant, which, combined with savings at the borough plant of $334,037, would generate almost $870,000 in estimated savings over 20 years.

And because, Greenskies has made conservative estimates about the price of electricity during that time, WPCA officials say the savings could rise to $1.4 million or more. Greenskies, meanwhile, earns its money by obtaining and selling clean energy tax credits and selling electricity.

The installation of the 500 panels at the borough plant would encompass almost all of the enclosed grassy area that surrounds the plant and would end its controversial use as an informal dog park. A buffer of trees would be planted to screen the panels from view.

While constructing the solar panels would effectively end the dispute over the dog park and make a lawsuit filed over the park moot, it could prompt an appeal or lawsuit over approval of the solar panels, which would need a zoning permit from the borough Planning and Zoning Commission.

The 900 panels planned for the Pawcatuck plant on Mary Hall Road would not infringe on the portion of the site that the Pawcatuck Little League uses for team practices. A fence might be erected to prevent baseballs from damaging the panels.

Two residents on Tuesday expressed concerns about the location of the panels at the two plants. But Greenskies has said the panels have to be on the site of the plants to be economically viable.