Connecticut, United States [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] The future is no longer the future. It’s now and it soon will be sitting atop the roof of Focus Mailing on Great Pasture Road. Stu Longman, who owns the building, is filling its roof with arrays of solar panels. He’ll do the same on an industrial condominium he co-owns on Shelter Rock Road.
When finished, the two buildings will contain the largest solar installation in New England.
“It will provide us with free electricity,” Longman said Wednesday. “And once it’s there, it’s forever.”
“When you buy a new car, the value of the car starts going down as soon as you drive it,” said Peter Lynch, Longman’s partner in the Shelter Rock Road facility. “This is an appreciating asset. Every year it gives more back.”
At a press conference announcing the project, U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-5th District, and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, of Maryland — the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives — praised Longman and the partnerships that made the project possible.
“Petroleum products, fossil fuel products, will be with us for a while yet, but it is the energy of the past,” Hoyer said. “The energy of the future is from the sun, from the wind, from geothermal.”
“This will grow jobs, reduce energy costs and clean up the environment,” Murphy said. “It’s a great day for Connecticut, for Danbury. It’s the type of project our renewable economy needs.”
Longman said the project — with panels made by Canadian Solar and installed by American Capital Energy — will have about 225,000 square feet of solar panels and will cost some US $8 million. When completed, it will produce about 800 kilowatts of energy.
That will power the two buildings and produce excess electricity that Longman and Lynch will sell back to the state’s utilities.
Longman said with the state’s energy costs rising, the project makes economic sense. “The cost of electricity is going up by about 7 percent a year. It will probably go up more in the future.”
Longman is not bearing the cost of the project by himself. He’s received a US $3 million Connecticut Clean Energy Fund grant for the work, as well as tax credits for a third of the cost of the project. The U.S. Congress recently re-authorized those credits through 2016 — long enough, Murphy said, to let businesses plan for the future.
“The tax credits are what made this possible,” Longman said, praising Murphy and Hoyer. “It’s the only way.”
Hoyer praised Longman’s initiative in building the project.
“We in Washington do a lot of talking,” he said. “We also writes laws. But those laws have no effect without people taking them and turning them into reality.”
Murphy, running for re-election against Republican state Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury, used Wednesday’s press conference to press for more clean energy initiatives. He said he has proposed legislation that would require 15 percent of all the energy that utilities use comes from clean alternative sources.
If that becomes a national standard, he said, the green energy movement will start creating jobs that will help the U.S. economy.
Adam Bauer, Cappiello’s spokesman, said Wednesday that Cappiello has stressed the need for such tax incentives as part of a comprehensive energy policy.
Bauer pointed out that Murphy — who once said he opposed off-shore drilling — followed the House leadership this year by voting to allow it, and that Hoyer has gone on record saying restoring that ban is a “top priority” in 2009.
If the House leadership switches position on the issue again, Bauer said, so will Murphy. “He’s being led by the nose by these people.”
At Wednesday’s press conference, Hoyer stressed that converting the U.S. into a country powered by renewable energy is a matter of national security. The U.S. is now dependent on foreign countries for much of its petroleum needs, he said. “Some of those countries don’t like us.”
Longman and Lynch also had an answer for those who complain that alternative energy projects can’t exist without subsidies.
“‘Currently, the subsidies for alternative energy, worldwide are $2.5 billion,” Lynch said. “For fossil fuels, the subsidies are $500 billion. All we’d like is a level playing field.”
Robert Miller is a staff writer with The News-Times.
This article originally appeared in Danbury, Connecticut‘s The News-Times, and was reprinted with permission.