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Newtown Among First In State Plugging Into ‘PowerSmart’ Program



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Newtown will be among — or possibly the first of — Connecticut communities to formalize participation in a program that will help home and property owners to fully or partially conserve the solar energy they generate using high tech storage devices, way too complex to simply be called batteries.

Earlier this week, Newtown and SmartPower, the nation’s leading nonprofit marketing organization dedicated to promoting clean energy and energy efficiency, launched the “PowerSmart Campaign.”

Newtown Sustainable Energy Commission Chair Kathy Quinn told The Newtown Bee that the program is coming online locally at an optimal time, as residents are currently applying for building permits to install solar panels and related infrastructure at an average of about nine per month.

“So far this year, there are a total of 33 [permit applications],” Quinn said.

PowerSmart is a unique community outreach campaign led by SmartPower to educate residents on the various opportunities and choices available to them to own “Solar+Storage.” This program encourages residents to convert sunlight into electrical energy and store that energy in a battery for use at a later time.

Thanks to some innovative programs, participating residents can even sell their clean, renewable energy back to the grid and help avoid the need to dispatch heavily polluting fossil fuel power plants during critical periods.

“Newtown has been leading the way in helping residents to make smart energy choices,” said First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal. “Now we’re pleased to help accelerate the transition to home energy storage.”

Over the years, Newtown has achieved 84 percent of its municipal energy consumption through solar and utilized the Small Business Energy Advantage program and other rebate opportunities for energy conservation measures in all town buildings through its Sustainable Energy Commission. The Town also has earned free solar energy systems through the Clean Energy Communities program and conducted a successful Solarize CT campaign.

“Newtown has been a leader in solar installations,” Quinn said. “Currently we have 9 MW of solar installed in town and of that 5.3 MW are supplied by approximately 558 homeowners and those numbers keep growing. On average so far this year, nine new permits for roof top solar have been issued each month.”

The PowerSmart campaign is designed to both engage and educate Connecticut residents on solar energy and battery storage technologies and the different options and programs designed to incentivize the adoption of storage systems, including:

The Energy Storage Solutions program — administered by CT Green Bank, Eversource and UI, offers residents the opportunity to receive a generous upfront rebate incentive for agreeing to have their batteries partially drawn down during the summer months and for a handful of days during the winter. Customers will get payments each year based on the amount of electricity that is drawn from their batteries.

The Eversource ConnectedSolutions program — similar to The Energy Storage Solutions program in that homeowners agree to allow partial draws from their batteries during peak days during the summer months. Participating customers will get payments each year based on the amount of electricity that is drawn from their batteries. With ConnectedSolutions, however, there is no upfront rebate incentive.

Both of these battery storage programs have safeguards in place so that draw-downs are suspended in the event of a potential power outage. Homeowners can choose not to participate in either program, but by doing so, they would forego the state incentives but would be free to use their stored power however they deem fit.

“No matter what option a homeowner chooses, our residents will ensure that more clean energy goes into the grid — ensuring our continued efforts to help the environment in our community and the planet,” Rosenthal said.

And regardless of what choice a resident makes, both solar energy and battery storage systems are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit pursuant to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Quinn said battery storage is the next logical step for local privately owned and soon-to-be-installed solar generators.

“And we are pleased that Newtown will be one of the first towns [in Connecticut] to participate in this program,” she said.

The commission and program organizers will be having a Launch Event on May 9 at the Municipal Center which is scheduled to take place at 6:30 pm in the Legislative Council Chambers. Representatives from SmartPower will be there to explain the program and answer questions.

“This is a great opportunity for our residents to find out more about solar and storage solutions,” Quinn added.

Overall, PowerSmart campaigns will be conducted in 28 cities and towns in Connecticut under a grant from the US Department of Energy and featuring a team led by Yale School of the Environment, New York University Stern School of Business, SmartPower and others.

“There’s no doubt that battery storage saves the day — both literally and figuratively,” said SmartPower President Brian Keane. “But it also helps save the planet by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. So let’s get PowerSmart.”

Residents are asked to visit powersmartnewtown.wee.green to learn more about the campaign, and how they can become part of the sustainability solution by going solar+storage.

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