Citing a short window of opportunity to acquire information among other concerns, the City Council voted 2-5 against entering into a contract to establish five solar panel arrays around New London.
The proposal called for the city to have Mayor Daryl Finizio contract with authorizing the establishment of the arrays on city properties as well as a 20-year agreement to purchase electricity from the company at a premium rate. The agreement would be contingent on approvals from the law and finance directors as well as administrative authorizations and approvals, including a change of use permit from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The company would be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the solar panels. Finance Director Jeff Smith estimated that the project would save the city between $750,000 and $2.2 million over the course of the contract.
The arrays would have established in the parking lots of the , , , , and . These panels would be elevated to allow vehicles to park underneath them. The proposal would also have established solar panels on the roofs of the school buildings.
The council tabled the idea from last week due to concerns that information on the rates Sun Edison would charge were not made public, as the company planned to bid for a Low and Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit Program run by Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminated Company. The Finance Committee met in executive session prior to Tuesday’s meeting to discuss this information.
Two residents spoke about the issue during the public comment section. Tom Quintin, of Save Ocean Beach Park, said the organization had not been consulted in the matter. He said neighbors would likely be upset with the proposal and that the panels in the parking lot could easily be vandalized. He suggested that rooftop panels on the GAM or buildings would be preferable.
Steve Alligood, a Waterford resident in the area of Ocean Beach Park, said he was not against solar power but thought the councilors were being asked to make a hasty decision.
“My only thoughts are slow down, look this over, and make a careful decision, because 20 years is a long time,” said
Councilors said they were interested in the idea of using solar power to save on electricity costs, but concerned with the proposal as offered. Council President Michael Passero said he felt there needed to be more information available on the potential visual impact as well as the reactions from property owners near the proposed sites. However, he said he felt there would be adequate time to address these concerns before the arrays would be established.
“I think there’s a lot of other hoops that have to be jumped through,” he said.
Councilor Adam Sprecace said he was concerned with the time schedule but would be open to reconsidering a solar proposal next year. Councilor John Maynard said he thought there would be benefits to the plan, but was opposed to some of the space being considered.
“The roof units I like,” said Maynard. “But with the parking lot units, I just can’t support it.”
President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop along with Councilors Marie Friess-McSparran, Maynard, Anthony Nolan, and Sprecace opposed the plan. Passero and Councilor Donald Macrino were in favor.