May 18—TORRINGTON — The city's landfill on Vista Drive off South Main Street is once again being eyed as a power resource.
Walden Renewables, a New York-based company that sites and builds solar panel arrays, wind farms and battery storage projects, brought a proposal to the City Council May 15 to consider a lease agreement for a battery storage array, which would earn the city money through a lease and yearly tax revenue. Walden has projects in New England and New York.
Walden Renewables Head of Development Dale Knapp said Eversource's South Main Street substation, adjacent to the landfill, "is the next key puzzle piece to move away from dependence on fossil fuels."
"There's a smaller piece of property near the railroad tracks that would be good for a battery storage system," Knapp said.
The battery storage system, Dale said, is an array of what look like white cabinets installed on concrete pads. The storage system is low-maintenance and requires little oversight, he said, as Walden employees would be responsible for installation and maintenance of the system.
The City Council in July 2022 agreed to lease its landfill property to another company, which wants to use the site to install solar panels there.
Following a public hearing that year, members voted to lease the 15-acre former landfill to Minnesota-based US Solar. The company's approach is to use land for a certain amount of time, then restore it to pollinator-friendly land by planting wildflowers that attract insects and birds.
City Public Works Director Ray Drew said once US Solar submits its final plans for the solar array, Walden Renewables' project could be added to the landfill property.
Battery storage systems, Dale said, can be connected to a power grid — such as the South Main Street power substation — when electrical demand is high.
"Based on demand, battery storage systems are part of a need for resilience, when there's a crisis on the grid," Dale said. He said Torrington could earn up to $6,000 per year, per acre, plus tax revenue. He said they developed that earnings number based on the value of the property plus demand.
Councilwoman Ann Ruwet, whose family property on East Pearl Road faces a large solar array that was installed in 2020 on 11 acres, was concerned about the new proposal.
"We've gotten more solar projects that we're not really excited about. I'd like to learn more about this. I'm a little hesitant to move forward," she said.
Drew and city engineer Jamie Sekora pointed out that the landfill property is something that can't be developed easily.
"You can't put solar on a huge incline, so there's one area (of the landfill) that would not suit solar," Sekora said. "Battery storage is more for the whole power grid. It makes sense for battery storage; we can use all the unusable land."
Dale said the battery storage project would tie into a substation.
"This is a transmission project," he said. "It would serve Torrington and the surrounding area."
Walden, Dale said, stays away from residential development for this type of energy storage system. The company is looking for 15 sites to install the storage systems. Once they get a letter of consent from the city, Walden would work with Eversource to pursue the project, which could take years to develop. "There's tremendous lead time," he said.
Drew said the idea of using the landfill for alternative and sustainable energy sources made sense. "We have 110 acres up there, and there's potential," he said. "Walden is the only battery storage company that's reached out to us. If our landfill wasn't next to the power substation, they wouldn't have. This is about feeding the transmission of power."
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