MERIDEN — City officials eye potential electricity cost savings through proposed multi-year agreements with a national solar energy firm.
Representatives for TRITEC Americas, a San Diego, California-based solar energy developer, recently approached city and Board of Education officials with proposals to enter into two separate 20-year renewable energy purchase agreements. Those agreements, if adopted, would be entered into through the state’s Non-Residential Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Program, which is a successor to its previous Virtual Net Metering program.
City Manager Timothy Coon, in an email to the Record-Journal, provided general comments about the proposed city agreement, but noted he could not get into specifics while negotiations related to it are still under way.
“This contract will take advantage of credits authorized by the State for renewable energy production that will result in Meriden (City and BOE) receiving substantial payments in excess of $500,000 a year combined, when electricity is purchased under current usages,” Coon wrote, describing the program as “a great opportunity for both the City and the BOE.”
The Record-Journal estimated grant payments for the two agreements could total in excess of $10 million over their 20-year lifespans, if the agreements and projects are approved. According to figures shared this week by school officials, the Board of Education’s proposed agreement is expected to generate more than $4.5 million in grant payments alone. Officials also touted other benefits: locking in electricity prices to hedge against rising rates while shifting to clean energy sources.
Still, other steps need to occur before either agreement is fully enacted. The Board of Education this week voted to authorize school officials to negotiate an agreement with TRITEC. Separately, Meriden city officials will present a similar proposal later this month for approval by the City Council.
Meanwhile, TRITEC, which also has a multi-year agreement with electricity provider Eversource, and has approached other communities with similar energy purchase agreements, must have its bid as a wholesale energy supplier accepted by Eversource later this month.
Coon indicated the agreements would only become effective upon council approval and if the developer is successful in its upcoming bids and state applications.
Those applications would allow the company to construct future solar farms, which would need to be authorized by the Connecticut Siting Council. None of those potential farms are planned to be sited directly in Meriden.
Robert Ives is director of Business Development for Michaud Law Group, the firm working with TRITEC on its solar development proposals. Ives explained to the Record-Journal that TRITEC submitted four projects for Siting Council approval last year, and is wrapping up legal work around two of those projects, which will be in eastern Connecticut, paving the way for construction.
Ives indicated the developer has five to seven more renewable energy projects it will later present to state officials for approvals.
Ives described an approval process that includes multiple agencies, including the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the state Historic Preservation Council.
“Our client has a good track record,” Ives said, describing a process that comes with significant costs for TRITEC. Those costs include legal, engineering, and surveying fees.
Ives said each of the projects would be constructed to meet an annual electrical usage demand of at least around 10 million kilowatt hours.
The Board of Education’s proposal alone is expected to have the capacity to generate more than 12 million kilowatt hours’ worth of energy.
The cost savings generated would be due to Meriden’s designation by the state as an economically distressed municipality, which officials said allows TRITEC to seek additional grant funds toward the proposals.
“We’re agreeing to be a partner,” said Michael Grove, the Meriden Public Schools assistant superintendent for finance and operations. “The company gets additional points if they partner up with a distressed municipality.”
According to a report by the Register Citizen, the city of Torrington earlier this year approved a similar agreement with TRITEC.
The Board of Education’s presentation about its proposal quoted John C. Abella, the city’s energy consultant, as saying his research indicates it “provides significant benefits” to the city and to the board.
“The City and BOE would receive quarterly checks from the solar developer for a period of 20 years and the checks would be based on the total enrolled accounts in the program. Because the City of Meriden is classified as a disadvantaged city, the credits are at the highest allowable levels. There are very few no brainers in life but this one clearly fits that designation,” Abella stated, adding he recommended exploring the addition of large city accounts to the program “to maximize the benefits.”
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said on Friday the City Council was informed that day about the proposal and Coon’s plans to put forth a resolution for council approval.
“I think we’re going to learn more about it in the next week or so,” Scarpati said, adding the proposal as he understands it appears to take advantage of tax incentives toward renewable energy development.
“Ultimately it’s meant to replace fossil burning power plants — to bring in as much renewable energy as possible that’s sustainable,” Ives said.