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Thursday, January 18 News

Selectmen explore 2nd bid for solar project

DARIEN — Following through on an initiative to use solar energy to reduce energy consumption, local officials have listened to the second of two solar energy project proposals.

Tim Sadler, from Encon, a Stratford-based company which has previously worked with the town on projects including the police department and the library, outlined a 20-year plan at a Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday.

Like its competitor, Davis Hill Development, which presented a solar plan to the board on Dec. 18, Encon provided solar arrays for three municipal buildings: the Department of Public Works garage, the town hall and the police department.

According to Encon’s proposal, the three buildings are expected to produce an output of 384,754 kilowatts per hour in their first year. Encon estimates the town would save $624,395 over a 20-year period. Davis Hill Development estimated $437,930 in savings for the town over a similar time period.

“The system would be owned by a third party, the Connecticut Green Bank, and they would be responsible for any maintenance required for the system, and it would be one agreement for all three proposed locations,” Sadler said.

The construction and installation period would begin at the end of April and conclude in mid- to late July with utility inspections at the end of this time. The system would be scheduled for activation on July 30.

Selectman Pamela Sparkman, a Democrat, pointed out that Davis Hill Development had included a learning kiosk, which would display information including usage and environmental impact, in their budget.

“We have done that before and we can definitely talk about that. We’ve done educational things with elementary schools and we’re certainly open to that,” Sadler replied.

The 20-year purchase power agreement plan would be carried out with the following three options available after completion: either extending the agreement for five more years, purchasing the system at a fair market value or having the system removed at no cost

“The 20-year avoided costs are very different. Does this come down to dollars and cents?” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson asked Ed Gentile, the director of public works.

“It usually starts there,” Gentile said. “But you see some of the information they’re getting is identical and there are some approaches from the vendors that are a little bit different, and we have to weigh those options also. It’ll be a matter of sitting down and going over both of the presentations, the proposals and seeing what’s in the best interest of the town right now.”

Gentile said the decision to select a company would be made along with the help of Craig Flaherty, chairman of the Energy And Recycling Advisory Committee, a body that was reappointed later in the same meeting.

Gentile, via email, said a decision would be made “in about two weeks or so.”

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Stevenson said many factors, including cost savings, installation maintenance, customer service and scheduling, among others, would be considered.

Sadler, in an interview, said, “The town would pay for the solar power at the rate that is less than the utility costs. It’s a win-win for the town and the environment.”

Encon, according to its proposal, uses LG 400W solar modules, with a life span of 25 to 35 years, and Solectria Inverters, which come with a 20- year warranty.

The town joined the Clean Energy Communities program in October 2015 in an initiative to reduce municipal building energy consumption by 20 percent and attain 20 percent of municipal electricity needs from renewable sources by 2018.

humberto.juarez@hearst

mediact.com

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