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DEEP gives initial approval to four solar projects in region

Four solar energy projects in southeastern Connecticut are among 25 selected by the state to enter power purchase contract negotiations with the state’s two electric distribution companies, Eversource and United Illuminating.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Monday announced the names of the projects selected in response to its request for proposals for small-scale clean energy projects.

Collectively, the projects would generate about 402 megawatts of electricity, DEEP said. Eleven of the 25 projects are in Connecticut, while the others are in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

In comparison, the two reactors at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 500,000 homes.

The four local projects include:

• Pawcatuck Solar Center, a 15-megawatt facility that would be developed by Coronal Development Services, a subsidiary of Panasonic.

• Swantown Road Solar, a 6-megawatt facility that would be developed in Preston by SunEast Development, which has local offices in Old Saybrook.

• North Stonington Solar Plant + Park Project, a 10-megawatt project that would be developed by Connecticut Energy Parks, a Fairfield company.

• GRE-29 Waterford, a 17.7-megawatt project that would be developed by GRE Gacrux LLC, also known as Greenskies Renewable Energy, a Middletown-based company.

Tom Swank, president of SunEast, said DEEP’s request for proposals was attractive because it offered the opportunity to negotiate long-term contracts with the utilities to sell power at competitive prices.

“We like that DEEP and the utilities supported projects being built by Connecticut small businesses,” he said, adding that the company hopes to have the Preston facility built and operating by 2018. “This will help the Connecticut electricity grid become more green.”

The Preston plant, which would be the first in the state for SunEast, would be built on about 20 to 25 acres of a former gravel mine off Swantown Road, Swank said. The company has 20 other projects under development elsewhere around the country, he said.

“This would be a good use of a site that had previously been an industrial site that might sit vacant because of its previous use,” he said.

The company was awaiting results of DEEP’s selection process before approaching Preston town officials for land-use permits and other approvals, he said. First Selectman Robert Congdon said he first learned of the project Monday, but that he expects the town will be supportive.

The largest of the four local projects, the 17.7-megawatt Waterford facility, is proposed for either the former Waterford Airport site or the town landfill off Miner Lane, First Selectman Daniel Steward said.

“We would support putting it on the landfill,” Steward said. The town has had “very preliminary conversations” with the company, he said, about a lease agreement for the 37-acre landfill site. The airport property, off Waterford Parkway South, is privately owned.

“One or both sites would be fine,” Steward said.

Officials at Greenskies and the companies proposing the Pawcatuck and North Stonington projects  could not be reached on Monday.

Once contracts are reached between the developers and the utilities, the agreements will be submitted to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, a division of DEEP, for approval. Contracts are expected to be negotiated by early 2017.

“The response to the RFP for small-scale clean energy projects was robust and competitive, giving us the welcome challenge of carefully considering more than 100 projects and evaluating them against our established criteria,” DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said in a news release. “In the end, we were pleased to select a wide range of projects, including solar, wind and even energy efficiency, and all encouraged to see that 11 of them will be located right here in Connecticut.”

The projects would create jobs and economic activity along with bringing clean energy to the state, he said.

j.benson@theday.com

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