TORRINGTON — Priding itself on being an environmentally-conscience company, Torrington’s O&G Industries raised the bar recently when it “went live” with a 1.3-megawatt solar array at its quarry on Roxbury Road in Southbury.
According to the company, the 3,762-panel array is coupled with a 280-kilowatt Energy Storage System that will help to augment supply during peak demand cycles. This includes early morning hours when the sun isn’t strong enough to generate at full capacity while demand at the facility peaks with the startup of the quarry and asphalt plant operations.
The solar array sits on five acres (four acres of which are solar panels) and will produce the energy equivalent necessary to power 150 homes. The project is one of three solar projects that O&G has developed with the quarry installation being the first of its kind in the state. Solar arrays have also been installed on the rooftops of the company’s fleet maintenance facility in Torrington and mason supply showroom in Bridgeport.
The project was completed in collaboration with Eversource, Solect Energy and EnelX.
“We’ve always been environmentally conscious as a company,” said spokesman Seth Duke, corporate marketing and communications manager. “However, the past two years we’ve increased the focus on green initiatives. When we looked at how we could best utilize solar, we were also concerned with our energy consumption during peak demand cycles. Like all businesses, we start up our operations in the morning. This creates a huge energy demand on the regional power grid. That was the reasoning behind the battery technology we implemented. That way we could draw from our own reserves, reduce the demand during our supplier’s highest demand cycles and take some stress off the power grid.”
The planning, engineering and permitting for the project began in the fall of 2018. Construction of the facility started in June of 2019 with the site clearing, racking and panel installation beginning in October of last year. The system was officially energized on March 27.
The project was led by Matt Tobin and Paul Balavender. “Matt is the engineering manager for our power and energy division,” said Duke. “He has an impressive resume, has been working in the power industry for decades, and holds an engineering degree from MIT. He also leads power development projects for our client work. He managed all the aspects of the project from the point we signed the contract through bringing the system online.”
Balavender is the company’s chief counsel and is heavily involved in environmental initiatives across the company. He also doubles as manager of the O&G energy team. “Paul was involved in championing the project internally at O&G,” said Duke. “He worked with management and staff to bring the project from concept to point of signing the contract to move the project forward.”
Duke said the project was challenging “from the get-go” due to site conditions. The area of the site where the panels are installed was made up of “quarry spoils.” These are soils with a lot of boulders and dense aggregate that are difficult to grade. To counter the soil conditions, workers had to utilize special ground screws that would anchor the panels and ensure they could withstand up to 100-mile-an-hour winds. There were also some underground obstructions that had to be worked around. That required the team to construct a specialty junction box for medium voltage connections.
The solar installation at the quarry is one of the first, if not the first installation to couple solar generation with battery storage at a quarry in Connecticut, explained Duke. “Once the array is up and running for a year, we will have some hard data that will help to evaluate how we might be able to utilize solar effectively at our other facilities.”
O&G has also completed the standard switchovers to LED lighting at nearly all its facilities. “But we’ve gone beyond that,” said Duke. “At our asphalt plants in Harwinton, New Milford and Stamford, we’ve upgraded burner controls, added variable frequency fan drives, eliminated air leaks and installed insulation on tanks and piping at our asphalt plants.” The New Milford and Stamford plants are the first two registered in EPA’s nationwide Energy Star asphalt plant pilot program. When the upgrades are completed, the plants, the first two registered in EPA’s nationwide Energy Star asphalt plant pilot program, said Duke, are expected to achieve much greater energy efficiency. “Our Waterbury and New Milford facilities will be next.”
During the past several years, O&G has been recognized as a “Top U.S. Green Builder” by the Engineering News Record on its annual Top 100 Green-Buildings Contractor list, which ranks the country’s top sustainable building contractors. O&G ranked 77th overall and tied for 8th place as the largest green building contractor in the educational market. O&G is or has managing school construction projects in Colchester, East Lyme, Groton, Hartford, Ledyard, New London, Plainville, Washington, Willimantic and Woodbury. O&G was the only Connecticut-based contractor recognized on the 2018 list.
The company was also presented with a Sustainability Award by the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association for the construction of a brown bat hibernaculum at the company’s New Milford Quarry. The hibernaculum was constructed in hopes of preserving a population of bats who overwinter there, while protecting them from “white-nose syndrome,” a disease that has been wiping our large populations of bats as they hibernate for the winter. According to the Department of Energy and Environment Protection, the New Milford Quarry is currently one of the few disease-free habitats that remain in the state.
O&G Industries, Connecticut’s largest privately held construction company, is one of the country’s Top 400 construction firms with business operations including heavy civil construction services, building construction services, construction materials manufacturer and distribution, and mason products. Headquartered in Torrington, O&G has facilities located throughout Connecticut’s Litchfield, Hartford, Fairfield, New Haven and Middlesex counties. For more information, visit www.ogind.com.