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Johnathon Henninger | Record Journal
Dwight DeBow, owner of DeBow Mechanical Services walks past photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the Headquarters of the Southington Fire Department Monday, March 8, 2010. | (File photo/Record-Journal

Southington, Meriden, Wallingford Cheshire, explore renewable energy

In 2010, the town of Southington installed a solar electric and heating system on the roof of the Fire Department, using a $172,000 federal grant from the Department of Energy.

The system provides electricity and hot water. But in the years since its installation, the department has not seen a noticeable decrease in its utility bills.

Town Manager Garry Brumback said the results could be due to the relatively small size of the project.

Nonetheless, Southington officials aren’t deterred from seeking more renewable energy that would reduce the town’s carbon footprint and hopefully cut costs.

Earlier this month, the Board of Education’s Finance Committee heard a presentation on replacing a 30-year-old electric hot water system at Southington High School with an integrated solar thermal hot water system and a pair of natural gas condensing boilers.

DBS Energy of Berlin, the same company that installed the solar panels on the firehouse, made the presentation.

“We are going to look at every opportunity,” Brumback said. “The more we put up there, the bigger the bang for the buck.”

Other municipalities have adopted similar stances regarding renewable energy and are forging partnerships with the private sectors.

In Meriden, a second request for funds to erect a solar farm on the city’s landfill on Evansville Avenue was rejected last week. The project would have helped offset energy costs associated with running the water pollution control plant and was expected to save roughly $50,000 to $60,000 a year, according to city officials.

But Meriden’s two-year partnership with Greenskies ended recently, and the city is looking for more options. Both proposals for the solar farm were submitted to the Low and Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit Program through Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating. Because it’s highly competitive, it’s difficult to win acceptance.

“A lot depends upon their energy needs at the time,” said Juliet Burdeleski, the city’s Economic Development Director.

According to Stephen Montemurro, chairman of the city’s energy task force, the city will continue to pursue the solar farm and other renewable energy, including hydro, wind and LED lights downtown.

The city is looking at a possible hydroelectric project at the Hanover Damn that has shown promise, he said. And it’s also letting potential partners know that Meriden is interested in teaming up on other possibilities.

“We have an RFP (request for proposal) to do solar roofs, or any potential projects we haven’t identified,” Montemurro said. “We’re going to open it up to more vendors, not just solar panels.”

The city, which is in the process of renovating Maloney and Platt high schools, did not incorporate solar panels in the design of the two buildings. Montemurro explained that state requirements called for a percentage of energy-saving measures that were fulfilled in the buildings’ interiors.

Last week, Cheshire announced that it had been accepted into a grant program under the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority that makes it easier for businesses and residents to switch to solar power.

Under the Cheshire Solar Choice Program, homeowners would typically pay about $20,000 to buy a solar system, and the state would rebate $10,000, said lead volunteer Timothy White. They also would be eligible for a $3,000 federal tax credit.

White told members of the town’s Environment Commission last week that Cheshire participation in the program would become the framework for a comprehensive municipal energy strategy.

In Wallingford, renewable energy is found primarily in the schools. New solar panels at Sheehan and Lyman Hall high schools will become part of the science curriculum, enabling students to learn about alternative energy.

“This was purposefully delayed to the second summer (of the school roof replacement project) to make sure we get the funding,” Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Menzo said. Each school received a state grant for half the total cost of construction.

Science teachers are working on incorporating the solar panels into their classrooms.

“It’s an educational opportunity for students,” Menzo said. “Its primary purpose is not for developing and utilizing the energy.”

Southington was the first local municipality of the four towns to meet its green goal and qualified for a $20,000 solar electric system in 2011.

The town also commissioned a master conservation program established by Noresco of Shelton. Noresco will conduct a townwide energy efficiency audit of all public buildings, which could take several years, town officials said.

Southington wants companies to bid on individual projects within the scope of the audit, Brumback said.

mgodin@record-journal.com (203) 317-2255 Twitter: @Cconnbiz



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