Solar Energy Powering More of Connecticut

By ecoRI News staff

Showing strength in all market sectors, Connecticut ranked 16th in the nation in installed solar capacity last year, according to a recently released study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). In 2014, Connecticut added 45 megawatts of solar electric capacity, bringing its total to 119 — enough energy to power nearly 20,000 homes.

The report noted that Connecticut’s biggest solar gains came in commercial installations, but residential installations also increased. Of the new capacity added, 21 megawatts were commercial, 17 were residential and 7 were utility scale. Together, these installations represented a $121 million investment, according to the report.

From an environmental perspective, the study noted that Connecticut solar power helped to offset nearly 100,000 metric tons of carbon emissions last year — the equivalent of removing more than 20,000 cars from the road.

“To put the state’s solar growth in some context, the 119 megawatts of solar PV installed today in Connecticut is nearly as much as the entire country had installed by 2004. And frankly, the state is just scratching the surface of its enormous potential,” SEIA president Rhone Resch said. “Looking forward, we expect 2016 to be the best year ever for new PV installations across the state, with more than 50 megawatts in new projects expected to come on-line.”

There are 135 solar companies at work in Connecticut, employing more than 1,600 people, according to the report. Notable projects include:

Somers Solar Center was completed in 2013 by developer HelioSage Energy. This photovoltaic (PV) project has the capacity to generate 5 megawatts of electricity — enough energy to power more than 700 homes.

At 5 megawatts, the East Lyme Solar Park is among the largest solar installations in Connecticut. Completed in 2014 by Greenskies Renewable Energy, this PV project also has enough electric capacity to power more than 700 homes.

IKEA has installed one of the largest corporate PV systems in the state, with 940 kilowatts of solar capacity at its location in New Haven.

In addition to a growing commercial sector, the Connecticut residential market also showed impressive gains last year, with installed system prices dropping by 8 percent — and down a total of 49 percent since 2010, according to the report.

Nationwide, the residential market added 1.2 gigawatts of installed capacity in 2014, marking the first time that this sector surpassed a gigawatt of solar, according to the report. Residential also continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the United States, with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.

“Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide — more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined — and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy,” Resch said.