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EGEB: Solar policies in Connecticut, US funding for floating wind turbines

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Today in EGEB, Connecticut solar policy is in the crosshairs, in more ways than one. The Department of Energy offers funding for a floating wind turbine project.

Two separate articles recently took a hard look at Connecticut’s state policies and regulations as they relate to solar power. Connecticut passed a bill last year that, among other goals, aimed to roll back net metering in the state. But as The Connecticut Mirror points out, the controversy is back.

At least four pieces of legislation from both sides of the aisle have been filed with the goal “to at least slow down, if not repeal” the objectives of the bill.

Connecticut passed Public Act 18-50 last year with the hopes of creating an updated energy policy that would work for the state long into the future. But it drew immediate criticism from solar installers, environmental advocates, residents and others for its solar policies.

The act aims to effectively end net metering in favor of either tariffs paid to solar owners for excess power, or a system that would force solar owners to sell all their power at a predetermined rate, and buy back what’s needed at retail rates.

As the Mirror notes, “Solar owners would wind up paying more in fees than they would have under net metering and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to install battery storage or home-based smart energy systems that help reduce demand.”

The state’s Residential Solar Incentive Program is predicted to end as soon as this October, which further complicates matters. It’s still unclear what might happen next, as pushback continues against the proposed state timelines.

CT Solar Farms

Solar issues in the Nutmeg State go beyond net metering. Hartford Business Journal reports that while energy costs from new solar farms have plummeted, state policy and local resistance could remain large obstacles to increasing development.

“Solar farms have been unpopular in some towns, particularly among property owners located near proposed developments,” the Journal notes. There have been battles to keep solar developments away from forests and farms. Some believe the state’s NIMBY — “Not In My Backyard” — attitude has gone too far. That includes attorney Lee Hoffman, who represents a solar farm developer. Hoffman told the Journal:

“Connecticut has moved from NIMBY to ‘BANANA’ — Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.”

But others believe state policy is more of an impediment than any residential pushback. A law enacted in 2017 restricted the siting of solar farms on some agricultural and forest land.

So far, the state has only built “a handful” of solar farms. But The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has approved more than 15 additional solar farms since 2013.

Still, questions remain. Hoffman said that six of nine recent solar farms selected as “zero-carbon” generators by DEEP are located out of state. As the Journal points out, this gives Connecticut clean energy — but not the jobs or tax revenue that come with in-state development.

DEEP Deputy Commissioner Mary Sotos said that recent procurement gave the state competitive pricing. She believes Connecticut should focus on building in-state solar farms away from forests and farms, and in alternative locations, such as old industrial sites.

Floating Wind

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced up to $28 million in funding to research a new offshore wind project. The new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program is ATLANTIS: Aerodynamic Turbines, Lighter and Afloat, with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control.

According to the DOE, “much of the United States’ best offshore wind resources are found in waters too deep for traditional offshore wind turbines, which are fixed to the sea floor.” Nearly 60 percent of potential U.S. offshore wind energy blows across waters more than 200 feet deep. Thus, the desire to pursue new designs for floating wind turbines.

The world’s first floating wind farm went live in Scotland in 2017. In general, the U.S. lags far behind other countries in offshore wind projects. The country’s first offshore wind farm of any kind, the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, only went live in December 2016.

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