Darien considering solar panels for three town buildings

A sample image of solar panel technology

Darien is planning to adopt solar energy panels for a trio of town-owned buildings, having heard proposals from a pair of energy consultants in the past month. Based on the proposals, Town Hall, Darien Police Department and the Department of Public Works Garage would be outfitted with rooftop solar panels for a period of 20 years, creating more than $400,000 in savings over that time.

Department of Public Works Director Ed Gentile released a request for the solar energy proposals in October of last year and invited two project teams, Davis Hill Developments and Encon, to present their proposals to the town’s Board of Selectmen. Both project teams work in conjunction with the Connecticut Green Bank which uses private funds to finance the adoption of green energy technology.

The proposal presented by Davis Hill Development showed that about 27% of the electricity currently being used by the three buildings would be offset by the solar energy panels. Based on Davis’s projections the town would save more than $435,000 over the 20 year period due to the reduced price of solar energy. Encon is offering a slightly lower rate for solar energy while projecting even more energy production for when construction is completed on the DPW Garage.

Installation of the solar panels will not require a capital investment from the town but Darien was required to invest in a bond of approximately $1,400 to seek vendors for the proposal. Financing is dependent on zero emissions renewable energy credits (ZREC) which awards a fixed payment to organizations like the CT Green Bank for energy generated from commercial solar energy systems.

Regardless of which proposal the town chooses, the solar panel equipment will remain under the ownership of the consultant and the CT Green Bank for at least 20 years. During that time the town would not be required to pay for maintenance or repairs to the equipment. With Encon, the town would have three options at the end of the 20 year term, continue with a new fixed rate for five years, purchase the solar panels at market value or have the equipment removed altogether. Gentile said the three town buildings were chosen because they have relatively new roofing, meaning they likely won’t need serious repairs during the contracted period of the solar equipment.

Both consultants expect that the project could be done by July if a contract is finalized in the coming weeks. While the Encon proposal offered a slightly cheaper rate, the decision between Encon and Davis Hill Development may not come down to just dollars and cents.

“It usually starts there,” Gentile said on Monday. “Some of the information they use is identical and there are some approaches from the vendors that are a little bit different and we have to weigh those options.

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