Construction Nears Completion at Connecticut’s First Biogas Dairy Digester System

Fort Hill Farms digester will produce renewable energy and soil products from food waste and manure

Thompson, Conn. (Nov.  19, 2020) – Earlier this summer, ground was broken at Fort Hill Farms in Thompson to begin the construction of Connecticut’s first biogas dairy digester system that will recycle food waste and manure into renewable energy and soil products. The project is moving forward thanks to a partnership between the farm, Live Oak Bank, the Connecticut Green Bank, and Ag-Grid Energy. When completed, the digester is expected to produce 550 kilowatts of electricity and reduce 25,000 tons of organic waste annually.

“I want to thank everyone who played a role in helping this first-of-its-kind project in Connecticut become a reality, from the Department of Agriculture providing funding assistance through the Farm Transition Grant for the project’s planning phase, to financing by the Green Bank,” Governor Lamont said.  “Scaling up infrastructure that manages organic waste is so critical for our state’s sustainability goals.  This innovative project is a win for our economy and our environment, and something that we hope to advance more of through DEEP’s participation in the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management, launched in August.”

Fort Hill Farms is a fourth-generation farm that currently has over 400 cows, 230 milking, and is part of two dairy farm cooperatives named The Farmer’s Cow and Agri-Mark (Cabot Cheese), which supplies products to both large, big box groceries and local markets. The farm has been regarded as “Best in New England” by Yankee Magazine, named Connecticut Tourism Ambassadors, and in 2013 was the first ever winner of Thompson’s “Business of the Year” Award. Due to their focus on local products and being named Connecticut Tourism Ambassadors, the farm is a popular destination for people to enjoy.

“Cows produce cow manure which can fertilize your gardens or make electricity for your home. This completes the circle, growing the food to feed the cows and then using cow manure to power our farm,” said Kies Orr, co-owner and operator of Fort Hill Farms. “It just feels good to be doing the right thing and being sustainable for the next generation.”

The digester project was developed by Ag-Grid Energy LLC, a company focused on anaerobic digestion technology, and is being constructed by Martin Construction Resource.

“Ag-Grid Energy is very excited to lead the installation of first dairy digester that produces renewable electricity in State of Connecticut,” said Dr. Rashi Akki, Founder and CEO of Ag-Grid Energy. “This project is a culmination of State’s supportive net-metering and food waste diversion laws.  It has also been an excellent partnership between Town of Thompson, NRCS, DEEP and Eversource to allow for permitting of this very first such installation.  We thank the City of Middletown and City of New Britain for also supporting this project by being the pioneers and purchasing the renewable electricity. We thank Connecticut Green Bank and Live Oak Bank for financially supporting this project and Ag-Grid Energy in general.”

There are a number of benefits of integrating an anaerobic digester with a dairy farm. It helps to enhance farm sustainability with improved manure management, generates an additional income stream for the farm, and produces steady electricity generation. A digester also helps reduce methane emissions coming from cow manure, improving air quality and lowering greenhouse gases.

“We are very excited to have played a role in this project’s financing, and to help a local family farm continue to find ways to become more sustainable while creating a great product and being a tourist attraction,” said Bryan Garcia, President and CEO of the Green Bank. “Anytime we are involved with a ‘first’ in the state that supports our joint energy and environmental goals and opens doors to similar future projects, it’s a win for everyone.”

This project is being financed by Live Oak Bank as the senior lender, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) Lender and Development Company Loan Program, a grant from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (“REAP”), a grant from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, and the developer’s own equity investment.

“Live Oak is very grateful to assist the development of this innovative project and support the joint venture between Fort Hill Farms and Ag-Grid,” said Max Vernier, VP, Head of Bioenergy, at Live Oak. “This is another great step forward in the decarbonization of the U.S., especially for the state of Connecticut, and a flagship project led by an impressive team of experts to demonstrate the full capability of a circular economy.”

Construction is anticipated to be completed in December 2020.

 

About Ag-Grid Energy LLC

Ag-Grid Energy LLC was established by Rashi Akki on March 30, 2016 a Delaware limited liability company.  Ag-Grid Energy has a vision to drive dairy farm sustainability by converting agricultural and organic waste to energy, enhance nutrient management practices thereby improving farm viability and financial stability.  This is accomplished by partnering with dairy farms, local utilities, local food waste providers and local regulatory bodies to develop stand-alone special purpose entities that support the states mission of renewable energy and waste reduction.  For more information about Ag-Grid Energy LLC, please visit www.aggridenergy.com.

About the Connecticut Green Bank

The Connecticut Green Bank was established by the Connecticut General Assembly on July 1, 2011 as a part of Public Act 11-80. As the nation’s first full-scale green bank, its mission is to confront climate change and provide all of society a healthier, more prosperous future by increasing and accelerating the flow of private capital into markets that energize the green economy. This is accomplished by leveraging limited public resources to scale-up and mobilize private capital investment into Connecticut. In 2017, the Connecticut Green Bank received the Innovations in American Government Award from the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and innovation for their “Sparking the Green Bank Movement” entry. For more information about the Connecticut Green Bank, please visit www.ctgreenbank.com.

About Fort Hill Farms

Fort Hill Farms is a family-owned and-operated dairy farm located in Thompson. The farm has been active through three generations in over 70 years. We thrive on sustainability and educating people about local farming. To learn more visit https://forthillfarms.com/.

About Live Oak Bank

Live Oak was established in 2007, and we’re on a mission to be America’s small business bank.  We are proud to contribute to the growth of small businesses, drive job creation, create prosperity and boost local economies by structuring creative capital investments. Live Oak is the largest SBA lender and the largest USDA Rural Development lender in the country by volume of originations. Our project finance team has deployed over $1B in debt investments to the renewable energy sector since 2016 and will continue to accelerate the shift to sustainability.

Green Liberty Bond Named Bond Buyer Deal of the Year Finalist as the Winner in Innovative Financing Category

November 10, 2020 — The Bond Buyer announced yesterday that the Connecticut Green Bank is among the recipients of its annual Deal of the Year awards as the winner in the Innovative Financing category for their 2020 Green Liberty Bond issuance.

For the second straight year, The Bond Buyer has named winners in 10 categories: five awards in our regional areas of coverage, along with five in additional categories. All award winners are also finalists for the national Deal of the Year Award, which will be announced at a virtual event to be held Dec. 16. This is the 19th year that The Bond Buyer has recognized outstanding achievement in municipal finance.

“This year’s lineup reflects the full range of communities and public purposes this market comprises,” said Mike Scarchilli, Editor in Chief of The Bond Buyer. “The deals honored exemplify the creativity and resourcefulness this industry brings to bear on projects that advance the infrastructure and quality of life in the nation’s municipalities. These qualities take on additional importance here in 2020, as issuers across the nation face unprecedented challenges.”

The Bond Buyer’s editorial board considered a range of factors when judging entries, including: creativity, the ability to pull a complex transaction together under challenging conditions, the ability to serve as a model for other financings, and the public purpose for which a deal’s proceeds were used.

“We are very excited and honored to be recognized by The Bond Buyer in the Innovative Financing category for 2020,” said Lonnie Reed, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Green Bank. “Issuing our first Green Liberty Bond during the COVID-19 pandemic presented unique challenges, however, the response from retail investors in Connecticut and across the country was incredibly positive. The desire to invest in Green Liberty Bonds is strong because it is both great for the environment and great for the green energy economy.”

The Connecticut Green Bank’s $16.8 million issuance of “Green Liberty Bonds” is this year’s Innovative Financing winner. Modeled after the Series-E War Bonds of the 1940s, this new sub-category of green bonds is sold in maximum denominations of $1,000, making them accessible to everyday citizens and retail investors.

To see all the finalists, please visit The Bond Buyer’s announcement.

Connecticut’s First Clean Energy Industry Report Released

Joint Committee of the Energy Efficiency Board and the Connecticut Green Bank Board of Directors evaluates Connecticut’s Clean Energy jobs; pre-pandemic workforce saw an increase of 9.1% from 2015

Rocky Hill, CT (Nov. 10, 2020) – According to a recently released 2020 Connecticut Clean Energy Industry Report, more than 44,000 people, an increase of 9.1% from 2015, made up the clean energy workforce in Connecticut in 2019. In total, clean energy jobs accounted for 2.6% of all jobs and a gross state product of $6.5 billion in Connecticut in 2019.

This is the first joint job study produced by the Connecticut Green Bank, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Eversource, and United Illuminating, Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas, subsidiaries of AVANGRID Inc., operating through the Joint Committee of the Energy Efficiency Board (EEB) and the Connecticut Green Bank Board of Directors.

“A robust clean energy workforce is essential to delivering the benefits of energy efficiency programs to ratepayers. In these uncertain economic times, establishing a baseline estimate of these jobs is critical for maintaining and growing a green employment base in Connecticut,” said Neil W. Beup, Energy Efficiency Board Chair.

Based on analysis from BW Research, employment in this report is broken out into five major technology sectors and clean energy-specific sub-technologies. The major clean energy sectors are: energy efficiency; clean energy generation; alternative transportation; clean grid and storage; and clean fuels.

In addition to jobs data, the report details clean energy employment by value chain segment, clean energy wages and wage premiums, employer hiring difficulties, geographic opportunity zones, and the demographic distribution of clean energy workers compared to state- and nationwide averages.

Some highlights include:

  • Since 2015, full-time equivalent clean energy jobs in Connecticut have grown by 13.9%, indicating that employees are spending more of their time on clean energy work in the state.
  • Energy efficiency workers represent eight out of 10 clean energy jobs. This sector has also seen the greatest growth since 2017, creating 1,257 new jobs— a growth rate of 3.6%.
  • Clean energy generation is the second largest sector. Businesses in this sector employ 4,830 workers and experienced a growth rate of 6.2% from 2017 to 2019. The majority of these workers are in the solar or nuclear sectors.
  • The majority of the surveyed clean energy jobs pay more than their corresponding occupational average, especially for entry-level workers. In total, just over three-quarters (76.9%) of clean energy jobs in Connecticut earn more than the corresponding occupational average across all levels of experience. For entry-level workers in particular, 92% of surveyed occupations are paid a premium.
  • Hiring difficulty in the clean energy industry in Connecticut was lower than the national clean energy industry average. The biggest challenges cited by employers were potential workers lacking experience, training or technical skills, and a small applicant pool for open positions.
  • Connecticut has a higher-than-average concentration of Veterans in the clean energy industry compared to the statewide workforce overall and the national clean energy industry average. Women and Hispanic or Latinx and Black or African American individuals are underrepresented compared to overall averages.

“While it’s good to see hiring challenges faced by clean energy employers are lower than those experienced nation-wide, there is still plenty of opportunity for job growth in the sector in Connecticut,” said Lonnie Reed, Chair of the Connecticut Green Bank’s Board of Directors. “As we continue to strive to bring energy efficiency and renewables to all of society, we will need to create job opportunities across all demographics.”

The report also briefly explores the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as the shutdown caused more than 6,500 industry job losses in March, April and May. The energy efficiency sector suffered the most with nearly 85% of these lost jobs in that sector. Overall, the pandemic derailed projected industry growth for the year, which had been estimated to surpass 46,000 clean energy jobs by the end of 2020; the current projection is now 40,668 jobs by year end, less than total number of clean energy jobs at the end of 2016. A separate survey of clean energy contractors painted a stark picture of the impact and recovery, which most responded would take between 6-12 months after “stay at home” orders were lifted.

“While COVID-19 has impacted our progress, it has not weakened our resolve,” said Eric Brown, Chair of the Joint Committee of the Energy Efficiency Board and the CT Green Bank. “Through the Energize CT initiative, we are committed to building a vibrant, resilient, and growing clean energy industry for Connecticut that can withstand future pandemics, budget pressures or other unforeseen challenges.”

In collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Labor and their Office of Workforce Competitiveness, a set of career profiles in clean energy were created that identify the requisite level of education, salary range, health care and retirement benefits, and more for ten specific clean energy technology jobs.  To see these profiles, please visit CT DOL’s Connecticut Green Occupations website.

To access the full report, please click here. A webinar presenting the report’s findings was held on Wednesday, Nov. 18; a recording of that webinar can be found here and the slides can be accessed here

About Energize CT and the Joint Committee:

Energize CT is an initiative of the Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), United Illuminating, Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas, subsidiaries of AVANGRID Inc., and Eversource, with funding from a charge on customer energy bills. Learn more at www.EnergizeCT.com

Joint Committee

Pursuant to Section 16-245m(d)(2) of the Connecticut General Statutes, the Joint Committee shall examine opportunities to coordinate programs and activities contained in the plan developed under Section 16-245n(c) (i.e., Comprehensive Plan of the Green Bank) with the programs and activities contained in the plan developed under Section 16-245m(d)(1) (i.e., Conservation and Load Management Plan), and to provide financing to increase the benefits of programs funded by the plan developed under Section 16-245m(d)(1) so as to reduce the long-term cost, environmental impacts, and security risks of energy in the state.

To support the Joint Committee, the following is a principal statement to guide its activities: The Energy Efficiency Board and the Connecticut Green Bank have a shared goal to implement state energy policy throughout all sectors and populations of Connecticut with continuous innovation towards greater leveraging of ratepayer funds and a uniformly positive customer experience.