Published on December 4th, 2016 | by Aisha Abdelhamid0
Connecticut Solar Energy (In Depth)
December 4th, 2016 by Aisha Abdelhamid
Originally published on Cost of Solar.
Connecticut enjoys one of the fastest-growing solar markets among the smaller US states. One reason is because the Nutmeg State actually receives more sunshine than most of the solar farms in Germany, with an average of close to 4.5 hours of direct sunlight for every 10 square feet (approx. 1 square meter).
It may be a small state, but Connecticut is big on renewables and makes it easy for residents and businesses to go solar. The state has consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for energy efficiency programs & policies since the early 2000s.
Over 10,000 homes in Connecticut added solar panels since 2012, with nearly 5,000 installations completed in 2014 alone. And, with the state’s recent launch of C-PACE, municipalities and commercial property owners are increasingly installing solar systems, as well.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that over 147 solar companies employ nearly 2000 people in Connecticut. The total installed capacity of solar energy in Connecticut is 265 MW, ranking it 17th in the US. The state’s 2015 installation of solar capacity ranks 14th nationally, growing 64% in 2015, with 91 MW installed for the year.
Investments in solar installations for 2015 represented a whopping 124% increase over 2014, pulling in $270 million, and 2016 is expected to see even greater growth.
Connecticut’s Current Solar Situation
Unlike many states where going solar is treated like an act of treason, Connecticut has been consistently and refreshingly open-minded and generous in its adoption of clean energy policies, programs, and incentives.
With the electric restructuring legislation of 1998, Connecticut’s Public Act 98-28 established separate funds supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency. A surcharge on ratepayers’ utility bills started up in 2000 for the renewable energy fund, charging $0.0005 per kilowatt-hour (0.5 mill per kWh), rising to 1 mill in July 2004.
The Connecticut Green Bank, known officially as the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), administers the CT Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) fed by the renewable energy fund surcharge. Designated by the CT General Assembly, the CT Green Bank is a quasi-governmental investment organization that develops programs and funds projects that meet the CCEF mission.
The total funding for the CCEF from 2000–2010 was $151 million, with annual funding of approximately $20 million. Eligible projects include solar photovoltaics (PV), biomass, hydroelectric, hydrogen, combined heat & power (CHP), fuel cells using non-renewable or renewable fuels, tidal, wave, ocean thermal, and other distributed generation technologies. Applicable sectors include residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and utilities.
Also, since 1977, Connecticut residents have enjoyed a 100% exemption from additional property taxes when installing solar panels on their homes. A solar installation represents an instant property value boost of many thousands of dollars for a homeowner. However, as long as the proper claim is filed in time, Connecticut never charges the homeowner any extra taxes for installing solar panels.
Add to this a 100% sales tax exemption for the solar installation and its value immediately increases an additional 6.35%.
Thanks to this early and visionary foresight, Connecticut offers a wide range of generously funded incentives, rebates, and financing programs to help its citizens transition to solar energy production for their homes and businesses.
The following is an in-depth exploration of the state of solar energy in Connecticut. Please feel free to offer further contributions in the comments, below.
Cost of Solar in Connecticut
Determining what a solar PV system will cost up front and save you over the long run depends on a number of factors, including system size, the length of time the system is in operation, and the price of electricity over the course of this time. In Connecticut, the average residential solar system is 7 kW and generates around 8,400 kWh per year, but your needs and capabilities may be different, so it is always best to get a personalized solar quote.
According to the SEIA, installed solar PV system prices in the US have dropped 12% from 2015 and 66% since 2010. In 2016, the latest data indicate that the average installed cost of solar in the US is $2.89/watt for residential and around $2.00/watt for commercial installations.
At $3.50/watt, this means that in Connecticut it will cost roughly $24,500 to buy an average-size (7 kW) system. The federal ITC of 30% reduces this out-of-pocket expense by about $7,350, and you can expect an additional savings of about $1,488 ($124/mo) in estimated energy savings. The total reduction works out to be around $8,838, so the first year cost of installing a 7 kW solar PV system would be around $15,662.
Keep in mind that the monthly energy savings estimate is based on 2011 data, but over 20 years this still works out to be around $29,760, or a net gain of around $14,098 for a 7 kW system installed in 2016. No matter how you look at it, this is a great return on your investment and we didn’t even calculate the additional gain you will make by selling your excess electricity back to the utility under Connecticut’s generous net metering rate of $0.18 kWh!
And finally, even if you don’t remain in your home for a full 20 years, your home’s sales value significantly increases as soon as your solar system is installed. According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study, every kilowatt of solar installed on your roof increases the sales value of your home by an average of $5,911. This means that a 7 kW system will add $41,377 to your home’s value, so even if you sell it after the first year, you could potentially pay off your ($15,662) solar PV system and still make $25,715 on your investment!
Connecticut’s Solar Incentives (#InsideSolarBaseball)
The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is available in every state and offers credit from the federal government of up to 30% of the total costs of a solar installation. To get this tax rebate, fill out the one-page form with your federal tax return. If you are not expecting to owe taxes in the same year as your installation, roll over your credit to the following year. The federal ITC is currently scheduled to remain through 2019 and is to be phased out thereafter.
The following is a limited listing of Connecticut solar energy incentives from the DSIRE Incentives Database. Operated by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website offers current, comprehensive public information on US solar energy incentives, including federal and state policies, programs, and incentives.
Connecticut’s Net Metering Program Overview — Last updated: October 4, 2016
• Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Photovoltaics, Wind (All), Biomass, Hydroelectric, Municipal Solid Waste, Combined Heat & Power, Fuel Cells using Non-Renewable Fuels, Landfill Gas, Tidal, Wave, Ocean Thermal, Wind (Small), Hydroelectric (Small), Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels
• Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Heat recovery, Yes; specific technologies not identified
• Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Local Government, Nonprofit, Residential, Schools, State Government, Federal Government, Agricultural, Multifamily Residential, Institutional
• Applicable Utilities: Investor-owned utilities
• System Capacity Limit: Standard net metering: 2 MW; Virtual net metering: 3 MW
• Aggregate Capacity Limit: No limit specified
• Net Excess Generation: Carried over as a kWh credit for one year; Reimbursed to customer at the avoided cost of wholesale power at the end of the year (March 31).
• Ownership of Renewable Energy Credits: Customer owns RECs
• Meter Aggregation: Yes (virtual net metering allowed for municipal, state, or agricultural customers)
Connecticut Light and Power Company (CL&P) and United Illuminating Company (UI), CT’s two investor-owned utilities, are required to provide net metering to customers that generate electricity using “Class I” renewable energy resources, which include solar and other renewables, up to two megawatts (MW) in capacity, with no stated limit on the aggregate capacity of net-metered systems in the utility’s service territory. Any net excess generation (NEG) during a monthly billing cycle is carried over to the following month as a kWh credit for one year. On March 31 (the year’s end), the utility must pay the customer for all remaining NEG at the “avoided cost of wholesale power.”
Virtual Net Metering: — Virtual net metering is allowed for state, municipal, and agricultural customers generating electricity from either Class I or Class III* resources from facilities of up to 3 MW. The system may be owned by the customer, leased by the customers, or owned by a third-party on a customer’s property. It may supply electricity for the municipal host customer and additional beneficial accounts so long as beneficial accounts and the host account are within the same electric distribution company’s service territory. Municipal or state customers may host up to 5 additional municipal or state accounts, and 5 additional non-state or -municipal buildings if those accounts are “critical facilities”** and are connected to a microgrid. Agricultural customers may host up to 10 beneficial accounts so long as those accounts either use electricity for agricultural purposes, or are municipal, or non-commercial critical facilities.
Additionally, all virtual net metering hosts may aggregate all meters owned by the customer host.
When host customers produce more electricity than is consumed, excess electricity is credited to the beneficial accounts for the next billing cycle at the retail rate “against the generation service component and a declining percentage of the transmission and distribution charges that are billed to the beneficial accounts.”
The declining percentages are as follows:
• First year of commercial operation: 80% of transmission and distribution charges
• Second year of commercial operation: 60% of transmission and distribution charges
• Third year of commercial operation and after: 40% of transmission and distribution charges
Excess credits are rolled over every month for one year. The electric distribution company must compensate municipal or state host customers for excess virtual net metering credits remaining, if any, at the end of the calendar year “at the retail generation rate and the above declining percentage of transmission and distribution charges.”
Note: HB 5496 enacted on June 2016 requires that the virtual net metering facilities must be operational within 18 months from the date CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) issues final permit.
Shared Clean Energy Pilot Program — Enacted in June 2015, SB 928 requires DEEP to create a two-year pilot “shared energy facility program,” also known as community net metering. This program allows individuals to subscribe and receive credits for electricity generated from an off-site solar or other renewable energy facility. Subscribers must be located within the same electric distribution company service territory as the facility is located.
To be eligible, a “Shared Clean Energy Facility” must:
• Generate a Class I renewable energy
• Have a nameplate capacity of 4 MW or less
• Have at least two subscribers
DEEP was required to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to develop shared clean energy facilities by 1 July 2016. The success of the pilot program will be studied for two years, with full analysis and recommendations to be issued by 1 July 2018.
Shared clean energy facilities may be owned by for-profit or not-for-profit organizations and third-party entities may be contracted with to build, own, or operate these facilities. The pilot program total capacity is capped at 6 MW, with 2 MW allocated for the United Illuminating service area and 4 MW for the Eversource service area.
*Class III resources are defined as “the electricity output from combined heat and power systems with an operating efficiency level of no less than fifty per cent that are part of customer-side distributed resources developed at commercial and industrial facilities in this state on or after January 1, 2006, a waste heat recovery system installed on or after April 1, 2007, that produces electrical or thermal energy by capturing preexisting waste heat or pressure from industrial or commercial processes, or the electricity savings created in this state from conservation and load management programs begun on or after January 1, 2006.”
**Critical Facilities are defined as “a hospital, police station, fire station, water treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, public shelter, correctional facility, production and transmission facilities of a television or radio station, commercial area of a municipality, municipal center, or any other area identified by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as critical.”
Links to Additional Connecticut State Solar Incentives:
• Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Systems Last updated: 12/12/2014
• Local Option – Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Systems Last updated: 12/12/2014
• Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Energy-Efficient Products Last updated: 12/12/2014
• Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Solar and Geothermal Systems Last updated: 12/12/2014
• Groton Utilities – Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program Last updated: 04/14/2015
• Groton Utilities – Commercial & Industrial Energy Efficiency Rebate Programs Last updated: 04/14/2015
• Norwich Public Utilities – Commercial Energy Efficiency Rebate Program Last updated: 03/25/2015
• Norwich Public Utilities (Electric) – Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program Last updated: 01/08/2016
• Residential Solar Investment Program Last updated: 06/28/2016
• Local Option – Residential Sustainable Energy Program Last updated: 06/28/2016
• Local Option – Commercial PACE Financing Last updated: 06/28/2016
• Energy Efficiency Fund (Electric and Gas) – Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Last updated: 05/26/2016
• Smart-E loans Last updated: 01/05/2015
• The United Illuminating Company – Small ZREC Tariff Last updated: 02/19/2015
• Connecticut Light & Power – Small ZREC Tariff Last updated: 02/19/2015
• Connecticut Light & Power – ZREC and LREC Long Term Contracts Last updated: 02/23/2015
• The United Illuminating Company – ZREC and LREC Long Term Contracts Last updated: 02/23/2015
Connecticut’s Energy Storage Program is Proceeding Steadily
In September 2015, the CT DEEP opened a proceeding to advance energy storage systems and other electric grid improvements. This proceeding supports Section 103 of Public Act 15-5, passed in June 2015, requiring Connecticut electric distribution companies to submit proposals to DEEP for “demonstration projects to build, own, or operate grid-side system enhancements, such as energy storage systems.”
As an initial step, the proceeding offered opportunities for public comment and stakeholder workshop, as well as establishing priority goals and objectives for the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Integration Demonstration Projects.
The (DER) Integration Demonstration Projects program is “designed to find best practices on how different grid-side system enhancements can be reliably and efficiently integrated into the grid in a manner that is cost-effective for all ratepayers.” All projects are subject to approval by DEEP first, and then by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA).
Proposals submitted to DEEP are required to:
• Demonstrate and investigate how distributed energy resources (DER) can be reliably and efficiently integrated into the electric distribution system
• Maximize the value provided to the electric grid, electric ratepayers, and the public from distributed energy resources
• Complement and enhance the programs, products, and incentives available through the Connecticut Green Bank, the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, and other similar programs
In January 2017, Connecticut’s state legislative committee with jurisdiction over energy will receive DEEP’s evaluation on all approved proposals. Energy storage systems are expected to be the most likely beneficiaries of the program. Distribution system automation and controls are also expected to receive attention, as well as advanced distribution system metering, communication, and system enhancements enabling two-way power flow.
One example of an energy storage system already on the ground in Connecticut comes from a ground-breaking project teaming SolarCity with Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC) and Brightfields Development, LLC. SolarCity’s largest such installation in the Northeast, this project provides 13 MW of solar and 6 MWh of energy storage systems in southern Connecticut.
CMEEC will use the solar and stored energy to serve its municipal members and wholesale electric customers. Seven solar project sites in total will comprise almost 57,000 solar panels. All of the lands used for the project sites were considered under-utilized or were no longer being used for farming. One of the sites was a former landfill.
The energy storage system is SolarCity’s first capacity services project. SolarCity is providing the engineering, installation, and maintenance of the battery storage system to be controlled by CMEEC via SolarCity’s proprietary GridLogic control platform. GridLogic allows CMEEC to remotely and instantaneously dispatch stored solar energy to optimize performance and manage load spikes.
CMEEC CEO Drew Rankin explains, “CMEEC’s focus is on energizing customers and community prosperity, so we are excited to help create clean, reliable and locally based power resources.” Rankin continues, “These systems utilize leading edge technology that is both powerful and fiscally responsible. With these solar and storage projects, we are pleased to join SolarCity at the forefront of energy innovation.”
Notable Solar Installations in Connecticut
• Somers Solar Center — completed in 2013 by developer HelioSage Energy. This photovoltaic project has a power output capacity of 5 MW — enough to power over 700 Connecticut homes.
• East Lyme Solar Park — At 5 MW, East Lyme is among the largest solar installations in Connecticut. Completed in 2014 by Greenskies Renewable Energy, this photovoltaic project has enough electric capacity to power more than 700 homes.
• Walmart, Kohl’s, Staples, Target, and Walgreens — These are among the larger retailers in Connecticut that have gone solar.
• IKEA New Haven — with 940 kW, IKEA’s New Haven installation is one of the largest corporate photovoltaic systems in the state.
Solar Companies in Connecticut
With over 147 solar companies supporting Connecticut’s solar industry, a wide variety of products and services are locally available. A recent survey by the Solar Foundation ranked Connecticut 18th in the nation for solar industry jobs per capita. Over 50% of these jobs are held by installers and 29% are sales and distribution positions. As a fast-growing market, it is not surprising to find many of the top national solar companies working in CT.
Solar PV System Installers in Connecticut
714 Brook St, Ste 150. Rocky Hill, CT 06067
200 Cascade Boulevard, Unit B, Milford, CT 06460
345 Huntington Turnpike, Bridgeport, Connecticut 06610
28 Knight Street, Norwalk, CT, 06851
523 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT, 06897
Ross Solar Group LLC
38 Beaver Brook Road , Danbury, CT, 06810
Sunlight Solar Energy (Connecticut Branch)
90 Hamilton Street , New Haven, CT, 06511
EcoSmart Home Services
105A Clark Drive, East Berlin, CT, 06023
Made In USA Solar Llc
346 Oxford Road, Oxford, CT, 06478
498 Den Road, Bldg 2, Stamford, CT, 06903
Sun-Wind Solutions, LLC
262 Wakeman Rd, Fairfield, CT, 06824
Smart Roofs CT
30 Nutmeg Dr, Trumbull, CT, 06611
Sound Solar Systems LLC
One Park Avenue, Old Greenwich, CT, 06870
(Please feel free to add your own recommendations and/or reviews in the comments, below!)
The Pioneering Effort to “Solarize Connecticut”
A pioneering program called Solarize Connecticut was “sparked” by the Connecticut Green Bank and is administered by SmartPower. Town by town, community by community, Connecticut is going solar in a well-organized fashion. Currently, 58 communities in the state have successfully completed Solarize campaigns. Over 2,000 homeowners have already installed over 17 MW of solar on their rooftops, and Solarize Connecticut campaigns are enjoying ongoing success throughout the state.
In addition to federal and state incentives to lower the cost of going solar, Solarize Connecticut offers significant discounts due to economies of scale. The process starts in a community through the help of town officials and local program management volunteers from Energy Task Forces. SmartPower issues a Request for Proposals from installers interested in serving the town participating in the Solarize campaign. SmartPower and a town committee interviews the installers and ranks their proposals based on such factors as prices, equipment quality, quality of service offered, and overall installer track record.
To take advantage of Solarize Connecticut’s special pricing, residents must agree to work with the installers competitively selected by the local committee. Residents are free to work with any other installer to go solar on their own, of course, but many folks feel comfortable working under the umbrella of the Solarize Connecticut program. Homeowners have access to $0 down financing through Dividend Solar, and the Smart-E Loan offers 10- and 12-year terms, as well, making financing a solar installation very convenient in Connecticut.
Check out this quick YouTube clip showcasing the launch of the Solarize Stamford Program:
Additional Links for Connecticut State Solar Resources
Connecticut Public Utility Regulatory Authority – Learn about the governing body that regulates the electricity rates and services of Connecticut public utilities
Connecticut General Assembly – Track pending legislation affecting solar energy, locate and contact individual legislators, and stay up to date on current legislative issues in Connecticut
Connecticut Clean Energy Fund: Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) – As the nation’s first full-scale clean energy finance authority, CEFIA will leverage public and private funds to drive investment and scale up clean energy deployment in Connecticut.
Energize Connecticut – A cost-saving clean energy initiative of the Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the State and local electric and gas utilities with funding from a charge on customer energy bills.
Solar Energy Association of Connecticut, Inc. – nonprofit organization promoting the development of renewable energy and environmentally benign technologies in Connecticut.
DSIRE Incentives DataBase Connecticut – Search a public clearinghouse for specific solar energy incentives in Connecticut and across the United States.