Solar deal could save Darien thousands over 20 years
Published 11:18 am, Wednesday, February 28, 2018
DARIEN — The town has chosen its path forward using solar.
The town has agreed to enter into a 20-year contract with Encon, a Stratford-based company that has worked with the town previously on projects including the police department and the library, according to Director of Public Works Ed Gentile.
Encon had made its presentation in a response to a bid to the Board of Selectmen back in early January, nearly a month after its competitor, Davis Hill Development. Both companies had estimated savings over a 20-year period for the town — Encon’s estimate was of $624,395 while that of Davis Hill Development came at $437,930.
“The selection was based on their experience, their turnkey approach and their maintenance responsibilities. The Connecticut Green Bank, who is financing the project, have a maintenance contract with Encon also so we’re getting a company that not only will install (the solar panels) but maintaining them for the company who’s financing for us,” Gentile said to the Representative Town Meeting members who attended the session Monday night.
The solar panels will be implemented on the roofs of three municipal buildings - the Police Department, the Public Works Garage, which is currently undergoing renovation, and Town Hall.
“We’re thrilled to win this contract and to be involved with this community,” Tim Sadler, an Encon representative, at a Representative Town Meeting Feb. 26 where the announcement was made.
According to Sadler, the 20-year agreement sets a fixed rate of 6.2 cents per kilowatt compared to a utility rate of 11 cents. Once the 20-year lease expires the town can choose to either extend for five years, buy the system at a fair market value or have the system removed at no cost.
“Darien has zero responsibility to anything associated with the system. The Connecticut Green Bank will do annual maintenance on the system to ensure it’s operating properly and they will also insure it,” Sadler said.
Following the presentation, Gentile and Sadler took questions from the RTM members. David Martin from District Five asked what would happen to the solar panels if by the 10th year of the contract if technology had radically changed.
“We’ve had modules working today that have been going on for 30 years. Yes, there will be new technology but will it be cheaper? We don’t know. We know what this will produce and why it will work,” Sadler answered.
When asked about snowfall impact on the panels, Sadler replied that they wouldn’t be generating electricity and that this offset had already been calculated in the costs of the 20-year agreement.
“Their primary generation time period is the spring, summer and fall months. The most generation you’ll get is when the sun is at a 90 degree angle to the modules,” Sadler said.
According to Gentile, the town is in the stages of reviewing the contract with Encon. Afterwards, the contract will go to the First Selectman Jayme Stevenson who will choose how to proceed.
As there is no capital investment or money needed, the contract does not require RTM approval.
According to its proposal, Encon 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’s efforts to implement this solar panel initiative spans back to October 2015 when it joined the Clean Energy Communities program with the goal of reducing municipal building energy consumption by 20 percent and attaining 20 percent of municipal electricity needs from renewable sources by 2018.