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Solar Panels, Virtual Net Metering Saving Taxpayers $750K Per Year



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Between participating in a Virtual Net Metering program, and energy offsets from solar panels installed on town buildings, the town is saving an estimated $750,000 per year according to a presentation by the Sustainable Energy Commission to the Board of Selectmen April 17.

According to ct.gov, “Virtual net metering generally allows a renewable energy system’s owner to share the billing credits that are generated when the system produces more power than the owner uses. In Connecticut, the law limits virtual net metering to municipal, state agency, and agricultural customers who meet certain requirements.”

The town saves $400,000 per year in Virtual Net Metering and another $350,000 from its own solar panels. The savings per year equates to $15 million in savings over a 20 year contract, said Public Works Director Fred Hurley.

“A lot of times, people think this is smoke and mirrors [with no actual savings],” said Hurley. “You have to show the numbers and show the costs and what the math is. It really has been a large net savings on behalf of the town.”

Sustainable Energy Commission chairman Kathy Quinn noted that 84 percent of the electricity for Newtown’s municipal buildings comes from solar. The goal is to increase renewable energy usage from the current 84 percent to 95 percent by 2024.

The state of Connecticut is striving to reach 100 percent carbon free electricity by 2040, but that goal may be moved back to 2050.

The town’s generation has most recently increased a full megawatt — from 8 mW to 9 mW generated. Quinn pointed out that energy upgrades to the schools and municipal buildings will also result in significant savings, and even further savings have been realized through rebates, incentives, and reduced consumption.

At the schools, savings have been realized through an LED lighting upgrade, HVAC improvements such as a new boiler at Reed and five replacement roof top units at Newtown High School, and attic insulation at Newtown Middle School. Additionally, four new EV double-headed charging stations will be added at municipal buildings in 2023.

The presentation was intended to show the progress of the Sustainable Energy Commission since its previous presentation to the selectmen in November 2021.

The commission is looking into adding solar panels through a Solar Buy All Program, and is planning panels at the Municipal Center, Police Department Canopy (including four electric vehicle charging points beyond the four previously mentioned), the wastewater treatment plant, and Head O’ Meadow School. Additional sites under consideration are Batchelder, Hawley and Middle Gate School, and the Newtown High School Auditorium roof.

Officials are also working with CT Power to level power use to avoid peaking energy usage. Hurley said that a demand spike can increase rates as a single large demand spike will be something “the town pays for all year.” However, even getting the demand curve down is something the town will not see benefits from for a full year.

“Flattening out the curves is not just an energy saver but a money saver for customers,” said Hurley, adding that while the town was finding large savings on the supply side, it is largely balancing the “large whack” he said the town received on the transmission side as electric rates went up.

“But without these savings, it could have been so much worse,” said Hurley.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

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