Hello Bethel: Solar Farm Ribbon Cutting

L to R: Paul Szatkowski, Rich Straiton, Matt Knickerbocker, Ameresco’s James Daylor, Rep. Will Duff,
Sen. Toni Boucher, CT DEEP’s Tracy Babbidge, Energy Conservation Commission Head Bill Cratty
The official opening of Bethel’s solar farm on June 1 proves that patience can indeed be a virtue. This project, eight years in the making, came to fruition through the combined efforts of Bethel’s Energy Conservation Commission, the First Selectman’s Office, CT’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, state legislators, and Ameresco, which installed and will maintain the 2,916 solar panels.

In 2009, Connecticut passed a new measure on virtual net metering, which requires electric companies to provide a billing credit to customers who produce power using on-site generation. At that time solar farms were already an established part of energy production in other parts of the world. Matt Knickerbocker, before becoming First Selectman, saw this firsthand when his work would take him to Germany and France. In 2010, he and Selectmen Straitor and Szatkowski created the Energy Conservation to take advantage of the opportunity that virtual net metering provided. The Commission had two objectives: to reduce the town’s carbon footprint and to save taxpayers money.

The Energy Commission worked closely with DEEP to receive approval to repurpose the town’s landfill for the solar farm. DEEP is committed to repurposing landfills throughout the state as a means of preserving forests and farm land. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, DEEP’s Tracy Babbidge called Bethel’s solar farm “the most beautiful landfill in the state.” Ameresco has also been an excellent partner for Bethel, sticking with the project for years as the town overcame significant legislative hurdles in Hartford.

Bethel joins only a handful of other Connecticut towns to have established a solar farm. Senator Toni Boucher called Bethel, “a leader, a shining example.” Representative Will Duff noted that the solar farm “is a perfect example of how to lower energy costs and produce energy,” noting that Connecticut is “extremely dependent on energy coming from outside the state.”

First Selectman Knickerbocker brought everything full circle in his remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Referring back to those solar farms he saw in Europe a decade ago, he said Bethel’s solar farm “is an example of the expression, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’.”