Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ansonia High Joins the "Solar System"

You can forgive the students and teachers at Ansonia High School if they start singing "Let The Sun Shine In" on a daily basis in the near future.


That's because the school is being outfitted with $1 million solar power generation system.

A New York City-based company, SunLight General Capital, is installing the generation system on the roof of the school at no cost to Ansonia. The project is expected to generate nearly 230,000-kilowatt hours of electricity each year.

That's enough energy to power between 20 and 25 homes for a full year.

SunLight General has a power purchase agreement with the city, which means that the company financed the purchase of the solar array and owns the equipment.

It will sell the electricity generated by the solar power system to the school at price lower than local utility rates.



Over the 15-year life of SunLight General's contract with the city, Ansonia will save an average of $14,000 per year in electricity costs. The high school is the city's largest consumer of electricity.




In addition to the money that SunLight General provided for the installation of the solar panels, the project also received a grant of more than $400,000 through the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funding pool.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Texas Wind Turbines Offer Interesting View of Renewable Energy's Progress in America


When writing entries for this blog, I try to stay focused on energy issues here in Connecticut.

But I couldn't help noticing an item that arrived in my e-mail last week concerning wind power generation.

The University of North Texas has received $2 million grant from the Energy Conservation Office in the Lone Star State to install wind turbines on campus.The money will be used to install three wind turbines that will be used to provide power to the school's new football stadium (an artist's rendition is shown above) and other buildings in that part of campus.

The web page the school has devoted to the construction of the stadium, which will open this September, doesn't show how close the turbines would be to the facility.

The turbines are scheduled to be in place and operational by the end of the year, according to school officials. They are designed for low wind conditions - the average wind speed in North Texas is about 12 miles per hour, according to school officials - and produce a noise level of 55 decibels at a distance of 131 feet away.

"Our university has a 50-year legacy of environmental research and sustainability," V. Lane Rawlins, the president of the school, said in a written statement. "We're proud to be the first university in Texas to install wind turbines on campus.

For those who advocate in favor of wider use of renewable energy, an announcement like this has to be encouraging to see. The idea of wind turbines being used to power, of all things, a football stadium in the heart of America's oil country might seem far fetched to some.

And even though this is taking place halfway across the country, the symbolism of what the University of North Texas is doing should not be lost on Connecticut residents.

Here in Connecticut, residents in Prospect and Colebrook are fighting hard to keep a company from installing wind turbines in those communities. A bill is even being considered by Connecticut lawmakers that would declare a moratorium on wind power development while state officials conduct further study on where wind farms should be located.

Wind power turbines being erected next to a football stadium deep in the heart of Texas suggests that perhaps mainstream America is taking the idea of wind power more seriously.




Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Insurance Company Gets Charge Out of Alternative Energy Vehicles

The Hartford Financial Services Group is betting that electric cars will become more prevalent than they are now, both in Connecticut as well as nationwide.

The insurer is installing electric recharging stations at three of its corporate campuses in the Hartford area. And it is modifying its homeowners insurance products to include several new features designed to appeal to those support "green" lifestyles.

“These new charging stations are an exciting and innovative way for The Hartford to show its commitment to Connecticut, its residents and the environment,” said Liam E. McGee, The Hartford’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Electric vehicle charging stations will soon be an integral part of the American infrastructure, both at the workplace and in the home. Installing electric vehicle charging stations and providing insurance coverage for them demonstrates our support for developing the electric vehicle market and our commitment to a cleaner environment.”

McGee's remarks came at a press event Wednesday in Harftord to promote these renewable energy initiatives. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy was among those on hand to celebrate The Hartford's announcement.

Of all the thousands of employees The Hartford has in Connecticut, only one - Ken Nelson (shown above) - already has an electric car. Nelson and his car were in the spotlight Wednesday as he demonstrated how other company employees will be able to recharge their vehicles, free of charge.

Heather Lodini, a company spokeswoman, said several other employees are on waiting lists to purchase electric vehicles because of their limited availability in the state.

In conjunction with the installation of the charging units, The Hartford is add several to its homeowners policies. Those new features include:

- Electric Vehicle Charger Coverage: The devices are now clearly included as covered property for new and existing customers that have the units in their homes.

- Green Rebuilding Coverage: Offers additional coverage for using environmentally-friendly materials or processes to make repairs after a loss that the insurer pays for. It also covers making necessary replacements with more energy-efficient or environmentally-friendly property.

Both features will be widely available by the end of the year, company officials said. And hopefully by then, Nelson will have some company at The Hartford's recharging stations.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nuclear Power Used to Evoke Passions

The daily focus on the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan makes me to wonder what has happened to anti-nuclear energy movement in the United States.

New England was once a hotbed of anti-nuclear activism, years before anyone ever heard of Three Mile Island. Anyone remember the Clamshell Alliance?

Thirty four years ago next month, over 2,000 protesters from the group occupied the construction site of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, which is shown in the distance in the photo at left.

By 1987, both of Connecticut's largest utilities - The United Illuminating Co. and Northeast Utilities - had a $1.1 billion investment in the plant, the New Haven Register reported at the time.

Seabrook opened 21 years ago last month, but not before Public Service Co. of New Hampshire was driven into bankruptcy. PSNH's bankruptcy in 1987 made it the first investor-owned utility company to do that since the Great Depression.

NU acquired PSNH out of bankruptcy court in 1990 and still owns the company.

Nuclear power will continue to be a part of our energy mix for the forseeable future. But in light of what has happened in Japan, it seems rather odd that nobody is speaking out more forcefully about nuclear safety.