Why Utility-Scale Solar Works for Connecticut

Connecticut has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, and in January they will increase even further.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will soon release the final version of its three-year Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which aims to create a cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy future for our state’s residents and businesses.

A major component of this plan relies on the cost-effectiveness of utility-scale solar energy projects to help the state and region transition to low-cost, stably priced renewable energy.

In 2016, DEEP selected multiple utility-scale solar energy projects across the state as part of competitive solicitations to provide clean, affordable and reliable energy to local utilities. These projects — now in various stages of development — are the least-cost form of solar electricity and will bring clean energy, economic development and lower energy prices to Connecticut.

Solar projects of this scope also provide other positive economic impacts to host communities, including much needed new tax revenue streams, which often exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Utility-scale solar does not need services or other forms of investment from the municipality. Larger solar projects also create many short-term construction jobs and several full-time positions once the projects are operational.

Land payments for utility-scale solar help farmers diversify their revenue stream and alleviate the pressure to sell off the land, which may be slated for more permanent forms of development.

Connecticut has many competing land uses, and residential and commercial development take up a large proportion of the state’s developable land. By contrast, solar is a temporary use of land; unlike other types of development, site reclamation can occur as solar projects come offline and removed from the land.

Further, solar projects are held to higher standards of regulatory approval than other types of more intensive development; developers avoid and mitigate environmental and aesthetic impacts.

Connecticut, and the New England region, needs new energy generation facilities. According to the recent 2017 Regional System Plan (RSP17) from ISO New England Inc. — the operator of the New England power system and wholesale electricity markets — from 2010 to summer 2020, power plant retirements will total approximately 4,800 megawatts. The report notes that older oil- and coal-fired and nuclear generators are at risk of retirement due to economic and environmental pressures.

As these power sources come offline, Connecticut’s current utility-scale solar portfolio will play a major role in achieving the hybrid grid necessary to ensure reliable and cost-effective power for our state and beyond in the years to come. ISO’s report notes that Connecticut and southern New England remain the most reliable and economical place for this type of resource development to achieve the hybrid grid vision.

Connecticut’s residents and businesses should applaud DEEP and the state’s vision when it comes to utility-scale solar energy projects. We won’t be able to achieve important carbon reduction goals and keep our energy costs down without it.