Solar farm on former E. Windsor landfill to benefit S. Windsor taxpayers

BY Howard French | Journal Inquirer

A solar power facility on a former landfill in East Windsor will help a neighboring town, South Windsor, save as much as $1 million over two decades on its electric bill, officials say.

Developers say the practice is common.

Jaime Smith, co-founder of Avon-based Lodestar Energy Inc., said his company develops solar power-generation facilities around the state and supplies the electricity to Eversource Energy, resulting in power credits to any towns that sign up for it.

The NorCap South project at 84 Wapping Road in East Windsor is being constructed on a roughly 11.2-acre site, of which 10 acres will be covered in solar panels, according to a news release. It will be connected to Eversource's existing overhead distribution lines that run along Wapping Road.

The 8,865-panel solar farm is being built on the site of a former gravel pit that in turn once was a part of the Northern Capital Region Disposal Facility, a 55-acre landfill that closed in 1999.

Smith and Lodestar co-founder Jeffrey Macel proposed the idea to South Windsor Town Manager Matthew Galligan in March 2016. The South Windsor Energy Committee later promoted the plan for its financial benefits to the town, South Windsor Mayor Saud Anwar said in a news release.

The Town Council approved the plan in April.

The installation will produce 3.6 million kilowatt hours annually, Anwar said — enough to power 450 homes. It also will offset 2,000 tons of carbon each year, he said, referring to the facility's ability to supplant power produced by conventional fossil-fuel-burning generating plants.

Energy Committee Chairman Stephen Wagner explained that under a program called Virtual Net Metering, Eversource will credit South Windsor's electric bill for the retail value of the generated electricity. South Windsor, in turn, will pay Lodestar for the right to use those credits.

Town officials did not reply Wednesday to a request for additional information on the cost of the credits.

Lodestar's Smith said Wednesday that the project also benefits the host town, East Windsor, in that it generates property tax revenue on a vacant site. Lodestar also has solar installations in Suffield and elsewhere, which benefit other towns, such as Vernon, for example, he said.

Smith said solar arrays have little or no adverse effect on the land on which they are built because they produce no pollution and can be removed with no lasting disturbance to the ground.

The solar panels are mounted on fixed steel posts, beams, rails, and bracing. Vertical steel posts will be driven into the ground to a depth of about 8 feet to anchor the structures.