Solar energy deserves continued support

Last week the state’s environmental agency announced that it had selected 25 solar energy projects, including four in southeastern Connecticut, as part of a state plan to expand the use of renewable energy sources that feed into the state’s power grid.

The companies selected will now negotiate long-term contracts with the state’s two private electric distribution companies, Eversource and United Illuminating. According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the projects will generate about 402 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 65,000 homes.

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 and will be built by Greenskies Renewable Energy, a Middletown-based company. Local solar projects are also planned in Preston, North Stonington, and the Pawcatuck section of Stonington.

Eleven of the 25 projects that will feed into the Connecticut power supply will be located in the state, while the others are in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Once the developers and solar utilities reach agreements, they will be submitted to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority for approval. Guided by state regulations, the parties should reach agreement quickly.

Solar has numerous advantages. It reduces the need for fossil fuels and improves the nation’s energy independence. It produces no greenhouse emissions. Construction is labor intensive and creates jobs. Once in use, however, labor operations are minimal, controlling cost.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that solar energy is immensely popular with Americans, with almost 9-in-10 adults in favor of expanding the use of solar power, while only 9 percent oppose it.

It is the fastest growing energy-production sector. In the last decade, solar has experienced an annual growth rate of nearly 60 percent, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. About 209,000 Americans work in solar — more than double the number in 2010. By 2020, the industry association expects that number will double to more than 420,000 workers.

President-elect Donald Trump has made American job creation his top priority. Despite his unreasoned skepticism about climate change, job growth should motivate a Trump administration to continue to support solar energy growth through tax credits and grants.

Wednesday’s news reports that Trump will nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an EPA critic with ties to the gas and oil industries, is cause for concern. Despite that signal, however, the merits of solar power should win out.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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