Blogs > Power to the People

A common sense look at energy issues in the state of Connecticut and how they affect the state's residents

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Park City To Become Solar City

Hartford is Connecticut's capital, but when it comes the state's renewable energy capital, you can make a strong case for Bridgeport.

The Park City is already home  to the world's second largest fuel cell park in the world, which was completed at the end of last year in the city's West End. And now, thanks to action Tuesday night by the Bridgeport City Council, it will soon have a solar energy farm, located a few blocks away from the fuel cell park.

The council voted 15-5 to approve a solar energy project on the site of a former city landfill in Seaside Park. The 9-acre site, which has been closed for decades, will host 9,000 solar panels which will produce 5 megawatts of power.

That's enough electricity to power about 5,000 homes. The United Illuminating Co. will handle the installation of the solar panels.

The project is expected to produce $7 million in revenue over a 20 year period. Mayor Bill Finch said developing the park on the landfill site will turn "a sin of our past into a shining example of our city’s future."

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shared Solar Bill Vote Coming

Supporters of a bill that would help pave the way for "shared" or community solar energy systems in Connecticut say the legislation is coming up for a key vote.

Backers of House Bill 5412 say the General Assembly's Energy and Technology Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to advance the legislation. Mike Trahan, executive director of Solar Connecticut, a renewable energy industry group, said if the bill is voted out of committee, it would then be taken up by the full state House of Representatives.

But if the Energy and Technology Committee fails to advance the bill by March 27, it will likely die in committee and will not be taken up until the 2015 legislative session.

Backers of the bill are circulating an online petition in an effort to convince lawmakers to move it forward.

Community solar would allow a group to set up photovoltaic solar panels at a remote location and distribute the electricity that is generated to members who sign up for the service.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pipeline Protest Scheduled For Monday....

A coalition of environmental groups will lend a Connecticut presence to a nationwide protest against the Keystone XL pipeline project on Monday.

Protesters are planning to gather outside the Giaimo Federal Building on Court Street in New Haven at 3 p.m. to protest the findings of a U.S. State Department report that was released on Friday. The report claims the controversial pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution.

 The protests are being organized by a variety of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. The 1,700 mile pipeline would bring 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada into the United States, ending in Houston, Texas.

Hopefully, the protesters will have had enough foresight to obtain the necessary permits needed to hold protests in the area surrounding the federal building. A lack of a permit forced the Connecticut Alliance for Retire Americans to relocate a July 2013 protest it had planned for the area surrounding the federal building to the New Haven Green.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

New England's Regional Grid Goes High Tech

Okay, so maybe New England's regional electric power grid was pretty high tech already, at least from the perspective of average folks like you and I.

But earlier this year, ISO-New England completed $14.9 million project that provides the grid operator with far more detailed data about the operation of the transmission network. The project involved the installation of data collection devices known as phasor measurement units.
The phasor measurement units allow for the sampling of such data as voltage and frequency levels at different locations along the grid, according to ISO-NE officials. The devices also allow for the sampling of power conditions at a rate of 30 times per second as opposed to the previous capability of one sample every two seconds.

Nearly 80 phasor measurement units were installed along the grid in the six state region.

The devices almost immediately began paying dividends when they began operating earlier this year , according to ISO-NE officials.

A forest fire in Canada in July tripped multiple transmission lines, resulting in the loss of about 1,750 megawatts of imported power from Hydro Quebec. The data from the phasor measurement units enabled the incident to be captured at millisecond accuracy across a wide area.

That, in turn, allowed system engineers to understand what exactly happened to the grid, and how the system behaved before, during, and after the disturbance.

The technology upgrades for the grid were paid for by a $6.4 million grant from the federal Department of Energy (DOE) and with $8.5 million from ISO-NE and the region’s transmission owners.
Installing phasor measurement units on regional energy grids was a recommendation that the DOE had made in the aftermath of the 2003 blackout that started in Ohio and spread from to the Northeast in a matter of seconds.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Is Vermont A More Lucrative Power Market Than Connecticut?

One might draw that conclusion from the latest proposal to come from Transmission Developers Inc.

The Toronto-based company unveiled a $1.2 billion plan Wednesday that would extend electric transmission lines from Quebec under Lake Champlain and halfway across the state to the town of Ludlow. The lines would be used to bring 1,000 megawatts of hydro-electric power into New England's power pool.

If TDI's plan sound familiar, it's because the company proposed another line under Lake Champlain that would be used to bring hydro-electric power to both New York City and Connecticut with a project that it dubbed the Champlain Hudson Power Express. But the company abandoned its plans to extend that line under Long Island Sound to Bridgeport in the summer of 2010, saying New York City's electric market was more lucrative than that of Connecticut.

Terri Hallenbeck of the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press reports that the Champlain Hudson Power Express, which also includes plans for burying the transmission line beneath New York's Hudson River, has won a certificate of public need from that state’s Public Service Commission and is awaiting federal permits. Permitting is running about two years behind TDI’s original schedule, according to Hallenbeck.

TDI's latest project is expected to be completed in 2019, Hallenback reports.

A lot can change in three years in the energy industry, so maybe a fair comparison can't be made between TDI's project from two years ago and the one now being proposed in Vermont. But clearly these two projects - and Northeast Utilities' Northern Pass project in New Hampshire - are evidence that energy and power transmission companies are willing to spent large sums of money with the hope of raking in even more cash over the long haul if the projects are approved.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

We Return You To Regularly Scheduled Programming....

Having overcome some lengthy technical difficulties, I'd like to welcome you back to the blog.

Couldn't have picked a better day to dive back into posting as a lot of things are happening in the world of energy.

Topping the list, Connecticut Light & Power later this morning will announce improvements it has made to storm restoration technology.

The company has been talking for months about how it is upgrading the information available to customers via the outage map on its web site. I'm sure that what CL&P will announce is more nuanced than that particular improvement alone, but check back here for more detailed information.

Connecticut officials are in California today, participating in ceremony marking the signing of a memorandum of understanding between eight states to jointly promote an increase in the number of electric and hydrogen power vehicles on the road. The goal is to have 3.3 million of the two types of vehicles on the road by 2025.

Of course, in announcing the event, nobody bothered to mention how many of the vehicles are now on the road. But, hey, that what I'm here for to ask those questions on your behalf, so stay tuned.

This afternoon, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Fitch and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty.

Fitch has been trying to refashion Bridgeport as a renewable energy center, an effort he started in 2009 to create jobs and save taxpayers money. While it remains to be seen how successful that effort is, it won't be from a lack of effort.

Both Esty and Gov. Dannel Malloy were in the Park City this spring for a ceremonial ground breaking on what was billed at the largest fuel cell park in North America. The project involves to big player's in Connecticut's energy market: Danbury-based FuelCell Energy, which builds the generation units and Dominion Resources, the Virginia-based company that owns and operates the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford.

Speaking of Dominion, the company announced Wednesday it has increased its energy holdings in the Connecticut, acquiring a solar project in Somers from Japanese electronics giant Kyocera for an undisclosed amount of money. Kyocera has been jointly developing the 5 megawatt project, which is supposed to begin operating by the end of the year, with CleanPath, a San Francisco-based company.

"Dominion looks forward to supplying solar energy to the people of Connecticut, where we already provide carbon-free nuclear energy from our Millstone Power Station," David Christian, chief executive officer of Dominion Generation said in a statement.

The so-called Somers Solar Center is being built 90 leased acres, about 4 miles south of Connecticut's border with Massachusetts. Dominion has acquired two other large scale solar project since the beginning of the year, one near Augusta, Georgia and the outside of Indianapolis, Ind.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

And Now A Few Words About Northern Pass....

Having grown up in New Hampshire and still having family in the state, I can say with great certainty that Northeast Utilities massive transmission project, Northern Pass, is highly unpopular with residents there.

It's hard to go anywhere in the Granite State without seeing dozens of lawn signs in opposition to the project. And now, Jan Marvel and Michelle Vaughn have created a film that seems to capture the level of frustration many feel.

"Northern Trespass" premiered July 10th at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H., a theater where I spent many a Saturday afternoon as a small child.  Marvel and Vaughn are two amateur filmmakers, who put the documentary together on a small budget over a two-year period.

The Northern Trespass website  includes a link to a trailer of the documentary on YouTube.

Martin Murray, Northern Pass project spokesman, told the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader that the information in the video is "inaccurate and outdated."

"It is heavily focused on the false threat of eminent domain, which has been addressed by state law for over a year now," Murray said in a statement. "The current proposed route was created by working with willing landowners. The producers surely are aware of the facts surrounding this issue, yet chose to mislead the public."

He added: "New Hampshire is ready to debate this project on its merits, through honest debate. Unfortunately, this video only serves to distort the truth and mislead the public."
The 187-mile project, from the Canada-New Hampshire border to that state's southern part, calls for 7.5 miles of transmission line to be buried.

NU officials say the cheap hydropower that the transmission line will bring down from Quebec will translate into energy savings of between $20 million to $35 million for New Hampshire and from $200 million to $300 million for the New England region as a whole.

During the last legislative session, Connecticut lawmakers approved changes in the state's renewable energy portfolio to make it easier for the inclusion of hydropower in anticipation of when Northern Pass goes into service in mid-2017.

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