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Solar/Electric Array Will Brighten Newtown

Published: October 2, 2017

The long-closed municipal landfill will soon be the site of the town’s largest solar/electric array, in effect, an electric power plant that is expected to produce approximately one megawatt of electricity and significantly reduce the town government’s electric bill.

Town and state officials gathered midday on a bright, sunny Tuesday, September 26, atop the closed landfill, where 4,266 stationary solar panels will soon be installed on frames and pointed at the sun to convert sunlight into electricity.

Fred Hurley, town public works director, explained that the 4,266 panels, each of which is rated at 320 watts, will be working in unison to produce about 1.365 megawatts of direct current. To make that power usable on the electric grid, it will be converted into approximately one megawatt of alternating current.

One megawatt represents about one-twelfth of the town government’s electrical consumption. One megawatt is enough electricity to power approximately 500 average homes.

The town already has solar/electric arrays at sites including the sewage treatment plant, Newtown Middle School, Reed Intermediate School, the animal control facility, and the parks maintenance garage. Installing a solar/electric array at Sandy Hook School is in the planning stages. Other sites planned for solar/electric arrays are the Dodgingtown Firehouse, for which the town covers the electricity costs, and eventually, the Batchelder property off Swamp Road, which is a former industrial site, Mr Hurley said.

The town will not put up any money for the landfill solar/electric installation, as the equipment will be owned by Tesla, Inc, which manufactures the solar panels. Mr Hurley said the solar array at the landfill has a projected lifetime of 25 years, after which the town would have the option of buying the installation.

The town will be using the “virtual net metering” system, which allows the solar array to function as an independently-operated power plant, through which the town will reduce its electric bill by selling electricity to Eversource.

Phil Luckshire, a mechanical engineer with Miller Brothers Electrical Contractors, will oversee installation of the landfill solar array. Installation is expected to start about October 10 and be completed about two months after that, he said. A crew of approximately 30 workers will install the devices. The array will be enclosed by a security fence. The system is expected to start producing electricity in February, Mr Luckshire said.

Mr Hurley said the presence of a “power plant” at the landfill will generate revenue and will make it simpler for the town to budget its spending on electricity. The town uses about 12 megawatts of power, he said. When the town’s various existing and planned solar arrays are all functioning, they would produce about 4 megawatts of energy to be sold to Eversource, he said.

 

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