What do an electrician, a furniture store owner and a dairy farmer have in common? In Connecticut, a lot, especially in matters of green and sustainability. Robert A. Trezza of Connecticut Sun and Power, Mike Albert of PilgrimFurnitureCity and the Freund family, led by brothers Matt and Ben who run a family farm in the Northwest Corner, are all pioneers in making their part and their industry in Connecticut green and sustainable.
Robert A. Trezza: Harnessing the Sun’s Power
Connecticut Sun and Power
Thirty years ago, long before anyone really took going “green” seriously, Robert A. Trezza started a new business to do just that. Thus was Connecticut Sun and Power born in Milford, and Trezza has been harnessing the power of the sun ever since.
Many others have followed in his footsteps, but Trezza is doubly unique. Not only was he a pioneer in bringing solar power to residential and commercial customers, he also was the first and, to his knowledge, still the only solar contractor in the state who also had an electrical PV-1 license. As such, he can design, install and maintain a variety of solar power systems which can be tied into or independent of the electric companies’ grid.
Trezza has had to become more than an electrician and contractor. As governments have become enamored with solar power, he and his company have had to become familiar with the tax credit and other incentive programs now available from the federal, state and, in some areas, even local governments. The power companies have also given up fighting solar and now embrace it, if a little grudgingly, and Trezza knows how to work that angle as well for the benefit of his company, his customers and the ecology of Connecticut.
Mike Albert: Showing Small Businesses How to Go Green
Pilgrim Furniture City
Mike Albert’s family has been in the furniture business for over 50 years, and when he took over and started expanding operations, Albert figured there had to be a way to make the company more green. Albert did just that when he opened up the fourth and newest of the company’s stores.
Rather than build a new store in Milford, Albert bought an old, abandoned factory. He not only had it renovated for use as a furniture showroom – but also decided to do so in the greenest possible manner. While some business owners believe going solar to power a store is enough, Albert did not. He got a grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and arranged to have a massive 1,500-panel photovoltaic array built. Then he asked the architects to design a green space on the roof. Still not satisfied, Albert took the additional step of having the roof and gutter system designed to reduce and manage rain runoff.
Albert is proud of his accomplishment, and rightly boasts that his is “one of the most green friendly furniture stores in Connecticut.”
The Freunds: A Green Farm Family
East Canaan in the Northwest Corner is going green – and brothers Matt and Ben Freund are leading the way. The brothers, along with Matt’s wife Theresa and their grown children, of whom the eldest, Amanda, just returned from a tour with the Peace Corps, run the family farm – a large dairy farm with nearly 300 cows. A decade ago, they figured out how to turn an anaerobic digester they installed to manage manure into an energy-making operation. Thus was born the methane digester variation, which with a boiler turns the liquid separated by the digester into energy – and enough energy to power and heat the milking barn, greenhouse, farmhouse, farm market and offices.
As if that wasn’t green enough, the Freund boys figured out how to use the solid matter separated by the digester not just for fertilizer but also to make “CowPots.” With a little help from the USDA, UCONN and Cornell, they built a business making planters from cow poop. These are much more earth-friendly than any made from plastic, and unlike clay pots, allow roots to grow through. Amanda has taken over that aspect of the family business, leaving her dad and uncle free to follow the next logical path: solar.
In 2013, the Freunds went solar. With so much of their heating and energy needs already met by the methane digester, installing solar panels has not given them their independence from the power companies and fossil fuel – they also now sell energy back to the grid.
Freunds, like many farms, is green in many other ways. There are the greenhouse, gardens and farm market run by Theresa (who also has a bakery and catering business), and besides producing milk for Cabot Cheese, the farm has 600 acres of corn and 200 more of managed forest. On so many fronts, the Freunds are leading the way to making the Northwest Corner green.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.