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$2.1M savings: Education officials schooled in solar energy benefits

Published 12:29 pm, Tuesday, April 8, 2014
  • David Mann, chairman of the town's Green Task Force, presents the group's proposal to put solar panels on the roofs of town schools. Photo: Anne M. Amato / westport news

    David Mann, chairman of the town's Green Task Force, presents the group's proposal to put solar panels on the roofs of town schools.

    Photo: Anne M. Amato

 

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If solar panels were installed on the roofs of the town's schools, the district could save approximately $2.1 million in electric costs over 20 years.

That was the crux of the presentation Monday night by the town's Green Task Force to the Board of Education, which met at Staples High School.

The task force, whose members are appointed by the first selectman, has made municipal solar energy a priority, said David Mann, the group's chairman.

He said that, to date, eight town projects have been approved, including installing panels on the Department of Public Works headquarters' roof. This alone, he said, will save the town $30,000 a year over the next 20 years, or a total of $600,000.

If the school district were to join the solar project, he said, it could "realize savings of $2.1 million over the next 20 years, compared to market electric utility rates." It would also help the schools manage the "volatility" of utility prices, he said.

For example, Mann said, energy savings at Staples High School could be about $46,900 annually if solar panels were installed, and at Bedford Middle School solar panels could realize a $30,000 per year savings.

Installation of the panels, he added, could be done with "little or no upfront costs" by a third party as part of a process that involves going out for bids and finding an investor.

Elio Longo, the school district's business manager, said there zoning approvals may be needed before the panels are installed. Right now, panels could be installed as long as they are six feet back from the edge of a roof, said Mann. If the roof is pitched, the panels need to be attached directly to the roof, he added.

Board member Brett Aronow asked what happens if solar panel technology changes. Mann said if that happens officials could renegotiate for a new system.

Board member Michael Gordon asked if the board would conduct a full study on the plan before considering approving the proposal. Mann said that would not be likely, but the task force could "certainly zone in on important questions."

A factor would be the condition of the school roofs. Superintendent Elliott Landon said some of the roofs are beyond their warranty and need to be replaced.

The board will likely continue the discussion of the solar energy proposal, and possibly vote, at its April 28 meeting.