New Solar Panels at Town Hall, Public Works Garage, Police HQ Celebrated on Earth Day

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Solar panels now on the roofs of three town buildings are expected to save Darien taxpayers roughly $40,000 in reduced electricity bills in the first year and generate as much power as 120 tons of coal.

Those were some of the statistics officials gave out at the ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted Monday afternoon — on Earth Day — at Darien Town Hall, and in statements made in connection to the event.

Darien is “a leader, in terms of environmental sustainability,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said at the event. “I think we’re a role model for small and large towns alike.”

Craig Flaherty, chairman of the town’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, said that it’s taken about two years “from idea to implementation” to get the panels installed and ready to generate electricity — something that hasn’t happened just yet.

“It’s just a matter of the final bits of paperwork,” he said.

Ribbon cutting solar panels

Just before the ribbon cutting, from left: Craig Flaherty, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Sustainability, Public Works Director Edward Gentile, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and Bert Hunter, executive vice president of Connecticut Green Bank.

The panels are installed on the roofs of Town Hall, Police Headquarters and the Public Works Garage on Ledge Road. The town already has panels installed about a decade ago on the roofs of the Darien High School gym and Ox Ridge School.

Solar Panels Town Hall Roof 2019

From video by Jordan Lewis and Cecil Wade for Darien TV79

Solar panels now on the Town Hall roof

Work is starting on the installation of solar panels on three more school buildings — at Tokeneke School, Holmes School, and Darien Public Schools headquarters on Leroy Avenue. That brings the total number of town government buildings with panels to eight.

(The town has three other school buildings without solar panels: Hindley and Royle elementary schools and Middlesex Middle School.)

Image from video by Jordan Lewis and Cecil Wade for Darien TV79

Solar panels on the roof of the Public Works Garage on Ledge Road

The town adopted a proposal from Connecticut Green Bank and Encon which provides for Connecticut Green Bank to own and maintain the solar panels at no cost to the town. The town didn’t pay for installing the panels, either.

The town agreed to buy the electricity generated by the panels from the Connecticut Green Bank at a fixed and flat rate of $0.062 per kilowatt-hour over the next 20 years.

This is less than the rate that the town currently pays for its power, which varies and increases over time. If electricity rates go down over the next two decades, the town would lose money, but town officials and many others don’t expect that to happen.

DPHQ solar panels

Image from video by Jordan Lewis and Cecil Wade for Darien TV79

Solar panels on Darien Police Headquarters (notice the the ones at the top of the picture, separate from the rest)

Stevenson praised the hard work of Darien Public Schools staff, the town Department of Public Works “and the fabuloous people who volunteer their time on the Austainability Committee, so we’re very proud of the advancements we made.”

Although the Sustainability Committee said the first year of savings is expected to be $40,000, Stevenson said the town could expect to save roughly $25,000 a year over the life of the 20-year contract with Connecticut Green Bank.

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This Darien TV79 video lasts 3 1/2 minutes:

Town of Darien Solar Panel Installation from Darien TV79 on Vimeo.

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Bert Hunter, executive vice president of Connecticut Green Bank, was one of the three people cutting ceremonial ribbons at the ceremony. He said the three new sets of solar panels will save town taxpayers “practically half a million dollars over the next 20 years” and “they will avoid burning a lot of fossil fuels.”

Connecticut has one remaining coal power plant in the state, he pointed out. Coal is considered one of the most polluting fuels. The plant in Bridgeport is expected to close in 2021. It would take about 120 tons of coal a year to generate the same electricity that the three new sets of solar panels will create, he said.

Some Statistics

According to a statement released by the Sustainability Committee before the event:

  • These six systems will increase the town’s Class 1 renewable energy generating capacity by 544 kilowatts, producing an estimated 609,933 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.”
  • [“Class 1” energy generating systems are the least polluting types and include solar power, wind power and tidal power, under a classification system used by the state government.]
  • “According to an EPA calculator, this will offset the equivalent of 539 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, which is roughly equivalent to the emissions released by the consumption of 55,000 gallons of gasoline or a passenger car driving 1,200,000 miles.
  • “The power purchase agreement is estimated to save the town approximately $40,000 in its first 12 months of operation and approximately $1,300,000 over the life of the 20-year contract.”

Based on previous statements from town financial officials, a $25,000 cut in town expenses would result in, very roughly, a 0.01 drop in the town mill rate — a penny for every $1,000 of assessed value. For a home assessed at $1 million, that would mean about $10 a year in taxes; for a $1.5 million assessment, $15.

“We are committed to limiting environmental impacts from town-owned facilities, to saving taxpayers money and to serving as a role model organization for others in our region and across the state,” Stevenson said in a statement released before the event.

“It is critical that we take action to reduce the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere if we are to avoid the worst of the predicted impacts of climate change and projects like these are a piece of the puzzle,” Flaherty said in the same statement.

 

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