New report challenges Connecticut solar energy site selections

By Phil Hall

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Connecticut needs to rethink where it places solar photovoltaic installations, according to a draft report issued by the Council on Environmental Quality, a state agency.

The report, titled “Energy Sprawl in Connecticut,” voices a concern that the pursuit of this green energy solution is contributing to ecological damage.

“Not all solar installations yield equal benefits,” the report stated. “Solar panels on commercial rooftops, industrial lands and old landfills can be sustainable home runs. Unfortunately, Connecticut adopted laws and policies that encourage utility-scale solar photovoltaic facilities to be developed on farmland and forestland. Connecticut was, and still is, unprepared to guide the placement of solar facilities to minimize their environmental damage.”

While the report did not discourage the future pursuit of utility-scale installations, it urged a rewriting of site selection criteria by arguing that current standards favor construction on agricultural land and the clearing of forest parcels. The report noted that the Connecticut Siting Council, the agency that approves these installations, “cannot deny approval for a solar photovoltaic facility no matter how many acres of farmland, forest or wildlife habitat (outside of wetlands) will be eliminated.”

The report encouraged new solar installations on 17 closed landfills within Connecticut, which could generate up to 80 MW of electricity, along with new incentives to encourage development on brownfields and industrial lands. It also pressed for more rooftop installations, adding that “more than 70 percent of Connecticut homes could benefit from solar photovoltaic systems,” resulting in an additional generation of nearly 4000 MW of electricity during the day.

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About the author

Phil Hall
Phil Hall is a former United Nations-based reporter for Fairchild Broadcast News, the author of seven books, the host of the SoundCloud podcast "The Online Movie Show" and a writer with credits in The New York Times, New York Daily News and Wired.

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