The rooftop solar energy system was put into operation Monday by West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor.
By Ronni Newton
No one felt a jolt of electricity, or heard a discernible hum, but as West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor flipped a switch on the roof of Town Hall Monday afternoon, the bright autumn sunshine began quietly and efficiently powering the building below.
The rooftop solar photovoltaic system atop Town Hall is West Hartford’s newest solar energy project to be brought online, and will provide about 20 percent of the building’s power through a sustainable, green, and renewable source.
“This is a very, very exciting day,” Mayor Shari Cantor said as she gathered on the roof for a brief ceremony with West Hartford Energy Specialist Catherine Diviney, Deputy Mayor Beth Kerrigan, Council member Liam Sweeney, and representatives from Verogy – the Hartford-based company that installed the array. “This is a signal that we are really really truly are invested in making our world a better place,” she added.
Cantor said she wishes the town could have installed an even larger system – but the roof is only so big.
“The installation is one of about a dozen projects that we’ve done town wide,” said Cantor, and represents “one more step in West Hartford’s overall commitment to and vision for a clean energy future for our community, state, and world beyond” and the town’s commitment to leading by example in changing our behavior.
As the commitment to energy efficiency continues, the town will soon activate a 600 kilowatt installation on the new roof of King Philip Middle School – a project that is five times larger than the one at Town Hall.
Cantor noted the role and hard work of Diviney in changing the way the town looks at energy, as well as the contributions of West Hartford Plant and Facilities Director Bob Palmer and the members of the Clean Energy Commission – Bernie Pelletier, Max Duboison, Chris Nelson, Joe Campanella, Dave Mello, and James Capella – for their role in making this project possible, as well as with education and outreach campaigns in the schools and throughout the community.
“Through energy efficiency projects and LED lighting, we have reduced our total electricity use in our town operations by 20% over the past seven or eight years – or a reduction of over 4 million kilowatt hours, with an avoided cost of over $700,000,” Cantor said. “Not only does it make sense to go green, but it makes green sense.”
Cantor said that the town will continue installing “behind the meter solar projects like this one where feasible, participating in Eversource’s virtual net metering program with a solar farm in Northeastern Connecticut, and purchasing renewable energy credits (or RECs) to offset what’s left.”
By the end of 2020, Cantor said, “I think you’ll see an announcement that West Hartford’s municipal electricity is coming from 100% renewable sources, which is something that will make me so very, very proud.”
According to the town, the array on Town Hall falls under a “power purchase” agreement with Hartford-based solar developer and installer Verogy.
Verogy installed the system, and owns and operates it, selling power to the Town of West Hartford at a lower rate than it could be obtained from other utilities or suppliers. As a municipality, the town itself would not be able to take advantage of the Zero Emission Renewable Energy Credit (ZREC) Program.
Steve DeNino, co-founder and COO of Verogy, said the 100 kilowatt AC/122 kilowatt DC array at Town Hall includes 346 solar modules and will produce about 141,000 kilowatt hours annually – equivalent to the energy usage of about 16 Connecticut homes. “These solar panels go a long way in helping the environment,” he said.
Diviney said the town is looking to install solar panels when roofs are being replaced, noting that it makes sense to do it only on new – or newer – roofs because of the hassle and expense of removing the panels for a roof replacement. Town Hall’s roof is relatively new, she said.
King Philip Middle School, which has had a new roof installed over the past three summers, is a very large, one-story spread out building, so it can support a massive array, said Diviney.
“This is what we call a ‘behind the meter’ system, so the energy that’s produced is used by the building first,” Diviney said of the Town Hall project. “But if it’s producing more than [Town Hall] is actually using, then it’s sent out to the grid.” She said that’s not likely to happen often, other than maybe on a really sunny Sunday morning when no one is in Town Hall.
The system being built at King Philip, however, will definitely produce way more than the building is using at certain times. Aiken Elementary School’s current system produces more than the school uses in the summer, sending energy back to the grid and resulting in credits for the town.
Diviney noted that since the ZREC Program came about, most solar arrays, including the one on Town Hall, are run through that program. The town neither owns nor operates this project, and Verogy receives the tax credits, which allows the company to offer discounted power to West Hartford.
When she was hired several years ago, the town only had one array which was placed on the roof of Bristow Middle School when it opened in 2005, Diviney said. Three smaller arrays were also installed under grant-funded programs.
The town does own the array at Charter Oak International Academy, which was installed as part of the construction of the school, much of which was funded by grants.
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