Connecticut invests in solar electricity for its future


Connecticut invests in solar electricity for its futureAs autumn 2015 arrives, you may be thinking about the increased cost of electricity that usually occurs in the colder months. Last year’s Arctic takeover of the eastern United States was extremely expensive in terms of electricity, as more homes turned up their furnaces and kept them running for longer periods. In Hartford, February 2015 was the coldest month on record, averaging 16 degrees F, about 12 degrees below the 110-year average of about 28 degrees for February.

Connecticut electricity is expensive

It was also an expensive month. For more than half of the state’s residents, the electricity used to run those furnaces was generated with natural gas. Winter is the natural “peak demand” season for natural gas, so electricity prices may rise again in winter 2016. Unfortunately, natural gas is supplied through pipelines that have capacity limitations, so excess seasonal demand on that resource often is accompanied by higher costs for electricity.

The Connecticut government is very sensitive to the impact on communities of peak demand times for electricity use and encourages its residents to reduce electricity use between noon and 8 p.m. on a daily basis. At the same time, the state is looking to reduce its reliance on natural gas and other fossil-fuel-based energy generation sources. Its renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) sets a goal of obtaining 23 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. In 2014, renewable resources generated only 3.5 percent of the state’s electricity. One source of renewable energy that the state is investing in heavily is solar photovoltaic (PV) energy.

Lots of sunlight in Connecticut

Although it is a northern state, you’d be surprised at how much solar radiance is available in Connecticut for electricity generation. As a comparison, Germany is the world’s solar energy leader, with over 35 gigawatts (GW) of solar power generating capacity. However, that country averages solar radiance (sunlight) of only about 3.0 kilowatts per hour per square meter per day
(kWh/m²/day). Hartford, like most of Connecticut, averages 4.5 kWh/m²/day, half again as much solar radiance as the world leader. Connecticut has ample solar radiance to sustain a stable solar energy generation system.

The amount of solar radiance per day is a significant driver for Connecticut’s fast-growing solar PV power industries. In 2013, the state tripled its solar production over 2012 levels, and by the end of 2014 it had installed more than 64 MW of public and private solar electric capacity. That capacity can power 23,000 homes. More than $121 million has been invested in solar installations, and more than 1,600 people are employed in Connecticut’s solar PV industry.

A variety of financial incentives

Future investment in solar energy generation is strongly encouraged by the Connecticut government. It has joined with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (now the “Green Bank”) and local electric and utility companies to form “Energize Connecticut,” an initiative intended to build a clean energy future for everyone in the state. Established by law, Connecticut’s “Green Bank” is the nation’s first full-scale financial institution focused solely on leveraging public and private investments in clean energy deployment. Offering incentives and innovative financing options, the Bank gathers residents, businesses and communities around clean energy resource development “to grow the economy, protect community health and secure a safe, clean energy supply for the state.

Programs reducing upfront costs

C-PACE: A very successful program advancing solar PV installations is C-PACE, or the Connecticut Property Assessed Clean Energy program. This model program offers financing services to homeowners and businesses for the installation costs of qualified energy improvements, including solar panel installations. Somewhat like a mortgage, these loans attach to the installed equipment and are paid off over time. The loan stays with the equipment so selling the home means selling the PV system as well, although studies indicate that an installed solar PV system can increase property values by as much as 15 percent. Accessing a C-PACE loan means no upfront costs are incurred for obtaining a solar PV system.

EPBB: Another up-front cost reducer is the “Expected Performance-Based Buydown” incentive that is based on the design characteristics of your new system. Paid directly to the installer, this incentive reduces the overall purchase and installation cost of the system.

Programs reducing operating costs

Renewable Energy Certificates (REC): RECs are tradable commodities that are used to prove the generation of 1,000 kWh (1 MWh) electrical capacity from a renewable source. Fully earned RECs can be sold back to the open market at that current retail rate.

Net metering: This opportunity lets you sell your excess electricity back to the utility to which your home or business is connected. Your system earns credits that are equal to the generation charge and a portion of transmission and distribution charges, and appear on the monthly electric bill. Net metering also reduces costs because the utility grid serves as your battery.

Don’t be cold or broke this winter

Solar PV generated electricity allows you to generate your own electricity. Your extra electricity can be sold to benefit your neighbors and reduce your costs even further. Winter is just around the corner, so now is the best time to investigate obtaining your own solar PV electricity generation system.

Connecticut is among the states where RGS Energy provides solar energy system installation. To find out how solar energy could power your home, visit www.rgsenergy.com.

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