State budget won’t impact school solar projects

The new state budget’s plan to cut funding for the Connecticut Green Bank shouldn’t affect town plans to put solar panels on the roof of Branchville Elementary School, or Scotts Ridge Middle School and Barlow Mountain Elementary School down the line, said Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment member Dwayne Escola.

“The ZREC funding is secure, as in the end it is a contract between Eversource and the investor and is not dependent on the state budget,” Escola told The Press.

Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credits, or ZRECs, are credits used to incentivize investors to pay for the upfront cost of installing a green energy system on a municipal building in exchange for the right to sell the power back to the building’s owner at a reduced price.

The town is spared the costs of installing the system, while saving money on its power bills.

The bipartisan state budget signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy on Halloween night included one surprise for green energy advocates like Escola — a cut of $27.5 million for the Connecticut Green Bank.

The bank uses subsidies from the state to drive private money into financing green energy projects for homes, businesses, and municipal buildings.

“Ridgefield owns three more ZREC certificates for the next three schools (Branchville, Scotts Ridge and Barlow Mountain),” Escola said.

“The town will assign those ZREC certificates to the investor who’s managed by the Green Bank. So as long as the Green Bank can keep a small staff to coordinate between the investor and the town, I don’t believe these schools will be impacted.”

Escola’s company, Northeast Smart Energy LLC, received the contract to install a 377-panel solar power system at Farmingville Elementary School last year. The system saved the school district about $25,000 in energy costs.

Asked about what the defunding of the Green Bank means for the solar energy business in the state, Escola said it would affect things, though how much he couldn’t say.

“We don’t know yet how much,” he told The Press. “Stay tuned.”