From left to right, Joseph P. Kennedy III, now managing director at Citizens Energy Corporation, with Mayor Erin E. Stewart of New Britain, Mother Mary Janice Zdunczyk from the Daughters of Mary, Schneider Electric VP of Microgrids Don Wingate, CT DEEP Acting Deputy Commissioner of Energy and Technology Policy Vicki Hackett, and Connecticut Green Bank CEO Bryan Garcia flip the switch on the unique project.
The New Britain Herald By Erica Drzewiecki
NEW BRITAIN – A $7 million feat in clean energy and innovation shepherded by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception was recognized Thursday by people from across the United States.
This event marked the official launch of a one-of-a-kind microgrid powering four critical care facilities on the congregation’s 137-acre campus at 314 Osgood Ave.
The Daughters were joined by New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, now managing director of the Boston-based non-profit Citizens Energy, representatives from the CT Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection, the CT Green Bank and Schneider Electric, all of whom played an integral role in this project.
“We are so excited to be here; this is a very big day,” said Kennedy, whose father, Joseph Kennedy II, founded Citizens Energy to harness revenues from clean energy ventures to help those in need. “The Daughters of Mary campus is now 100% resilient and self-sustaining, saving them over $400,000 a year in energy costs,” he added.
The project was dedicated to the late Mother Mary Jennifer Carroll, whose foresight led the order to pursue renewable energy before its first solar array was completed five years ago. Upon Mother Jennifer’s passing in Feb. 2021, the sisterhood vowed to continue these efforts with the guidance of Karen Kulak of Associated Real Estate Services.
“With so much emphasis on environmental issues and concerns today, we applaud Mother Jennifer for being one step ahead of the game and her openness and willingness to think outside of the box,” Superior General Mother Mary Janice Zdunczyk said of her beloved predecessor.
Utilizing a $3.87 million grant from the DEEP and innovations developed by the CT Green Bank’s C-PACE program, Citizen Energy and its strategic alliance partner Schneider Electric, the team built a microgrid system which boasts a battery energy storage capacity of 1.32 megawatt hours. That means in the case of an emergency power outage, it will provide up to 19 days of continuous power to the Motherhouse at Marion Heights, the Hospital for Special Care Research and Education Center, St. Lucian Residence, Monsignor Bojnowski Manor and the Prudence Crandall Center. The installation also included a 250 kilowatt natural gas generator for emergency use.
“The City of New Britain takes great pride in renewable energy projects to reduce our carbon footprint,” Mayor Stewart said. “To see other organizations also heading in that direction truly shows the commitment to making New Britain and our state a carbon-neutral place.”
CT DEEP Acting Commissioner of Energy and Technology Policy Vicki Hackett said this is the ninth microgrid project to be completed in Conn., with three others having also received funds.
“CT has the first statewide microgrid program in the U.S.,” Hackett said, adding that a second round of funding is expected to be announced shortly. “There is so much to be proud of here but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Schneider Electric Vice President of Microgrids Don Wingate called this project “a beacon.” “You’re helping people, solving problems and being a pillar for the community,” he told the Daughters of Mary. “I think this project here is going to spawn other activities not only in this city, but in the state and across the country.”
Bryan Garcia, CEO of the CT Green Bank, recalled a conversation he had with Mother Jennifer when his organization helped secure funds to finance the order’s first solar panel project. “Mother Jennifer taught me an important lesson that is now embodied in our vision statement,” Garcia said. The investment provides jobs in the community and saves greenhouse gas emissions, she pointed out, but it would also allow the order to increase summer programming for seniors and kids and residential housing. “And that’s love,” as she told him.
Robert Carroll, brother of the late Mother Jennifer, came from his home in Virginia to be a part of Thursday’s dedication.
“People didn’t realize what a gem she was,” Carroll said. ”This is just a small piece of all the things she did here over the years.”