Op-Ed: Bridgeport project would turn dormant landfill into solar energy farm

In Bridgeport, we have a rare opportunity to join Hartford in making history when it comes to green job creation and clean energy production.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra celebrated the launch of 4,000 solar panels on an old landfill. It’s the first of its kind to become a reality in Connecticut, and is projected to power up to 1,300 households with virtually pollutant-free energy.

Op-ed submit bugBridgeport has the chance to follow suit in becoming the second city in the state to produce clean energy at the site of an old and dormant landfill. Green Energy Park is a clean energy project consisting of 9,000 solar panels and a 2.8 megawatt fuel cell on a landfill. It has received overwhelming support and approval from the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), the Bridgeport Parks Commission, and the Bridgeport City Council.

This week, Connecticut’s Siting Council – the state body responsible for overseeing utility projects – holds its final hearing on the project. They’ll have the final say on whether Green Energy Park moves forward.

I’m hopeful that they’ll give us the go-ahead. The project will create nearly one-hundred jobs and is expected to earn the city $7 million over the course of its lease. It involves taking a run-down piece of property, and turning the parcel around to become a bastion for clean energy production, which will also help ensure kids in our city breathe easier.

Because of this, the project has generated tremendous support from Bridgeport’s two state senators – Anthony Musto and Andres Ayala – and from three Bridgeport state representatives: Don Clemons, Ezekiel Santiago, and Reverend Charles Stallworth. Approval from the state Siting Council is the final step in the process. And, business leaders across the city and state support the project, too.

This overwhelming support for this project at the local level is simple: We have an old, polluted, and dormant piece of property at the Seaside landfill. But with Green Energy Park, we have an opportunity to change that by using this parcel as a green jobs creator that brings in tax revenue to the city, and powers thousands of homes with clean energy that will ensure our kids breathe cleaner air.

This project also will help better position Bridgeport for the future. As the co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Task Force, I know all too well that cities like Bridgeport – which account for significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than suburbs – are the key to a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids.

For example, according to the University of Berkley, a Bridgeport household produces less than half of the carbon emissions of an average Easton, Conn., household generates annually.

In order to beat back climate change, it’s critical that cities like ours experience population growth, which means more kids and families need to move to Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, etc. And, in order to make our city a more enticing place for people to live, we need to create jobs, generate power through clean energy sources so our kids breathe cleaner air, and ensure companies want to invest and hire people.

Eco-Technology Park, a former run-down section on our city’s west side that is being revitalized through green job creation and clean energy production, is critical to this endeavor. So far, Eco-Technology Park has resulted in more than 200 jobs and many more to come. And, these new jobs have resulted in more than $10 million in annual personal income.

In addition to green job creation, Eco-Technology Park is serving as a hub for clean energy production. North America’s largest fuel cell is housed within the Eco-Technology Park, and generates enough virtually emission free energy to power up to 15,000 homes.

As the chief executive for the City of Bridgeport, I view this as just the beginning. This is especially true since the development’s cornerstone project, Green Energy Park, has yet to launch.

Green Energy Park will create up to 92 jobs in Bridgeport, and will power up to 5,000 homes with virtually pollutant free energy. This is particularly important since Bridgeport kids suffer from asthma rates that are nearly three times higher than the state average.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch

With that said, I have a vision for the future of Bridgeport. Much of it is already taking shape, which is evidenced by the establishment and success of Eco-Technology Park. But that vision will be compromised without Green Energy Park being realized, and that’s not fair to our kids and grandkids.

This project creates jobs. It produces clean energy. It helps ensure our kids breathe cleaner air. It helps reduce asthma and breathing ailment rates for kids. It grows our tax base. And, it’s proof that our city can heal from the sins of our past and move toward a cleaner and more prosperous future.

Bill Finch is the Mayor of Bridgeport. He is also Co-Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Task Force.

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