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State gets grant to streamline solar energy adoption

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published April 01. 2012 4:00AM
Feds gives state $481,473 through Sunshot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Connecticut nearly half a million dollars to help the state develop a streamlined system for approving and installing rooftop solar panel systems.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the $481,473 "SunShot Initiative" grant in March, saying the funding "will bolster our work to provide cleaner, cheaper energy options for Connecticut residents."

The grant will be used by the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority and its partners to develop standards that would speed up the permitting and connecting process and expand options for financing, among other issues.

David R. Goldberg, director of government and external relations for the CEFIA, said "soft barriers" to erecting more solar panels - such as different permitting processes in the state's 169 towns - can add 20 to 25 percent onto the total cost of an installation. The hope would be that if the first phase of funding results in improved processes, those results would be implemented throughout the state, he said.

"This program is a perfect example of how the state is poised to become a national leader for energy efficiency, and increasing our use of cleaner renewable power sources," said Daniel C. Esty, commissioner of state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, in a statement.

The Connecticut initiative, a partnership between CEFIA and several municipalities, will create a standard online permitting application meant to ease the installation process and help people to coordinate connections with utility companies.

Municipalities named for the first phase of the program were Cornwall, Coventry, Danbury, Fairfield, Greenwich, Hampton, Manchester, Middletown, Milford, New Haven, Stamford and West Hartford. The towns selected were chosen based on their leadership in clean-energy initiatives, geographic diversity and population totals that added up to at least 500,000 homeowners, Goldberg said.

While no town in southeastern Connecticut was chosen, "At the end of the day, all towns in Connecticut stand to be winners," he added, since the money will go toward developing statewide standards that would reduce costs for everyone interested in installing solar panels.

CEFIA's partnership also includes the DEEP, New England Governor's Conference, United Illuminating, Northeast Utilities, Connecticut Light & Power, Snugg Home, Solar CT, the University of Connecticut and Yale University.

"President Obama has made it clear that we need an all-out, all-of-the-above American energy strategy fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources designed and produced by American workers," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a statement. "The Energy Department is helping to unleash America's solar energy potential in Connecticut and communities across the country."

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development and chair of CEFIA's board of directors, said lowering the cost of rooftop solar power systems will boost demand for clean energy across the state.

"By working closely with our community partners to accomplish the goals of this project, we will be able to bring the benefits to the rest of Connecticut and across the New England region," she added.

l.howard@theday.com

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