More city schools going solar

Plans to install another round of solar panels on school buildings moved forward at the April 18 Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) meeting.

The board endorsed the idea of installing solar panels on Calf Pen Meadow, Orchard Hills and Pumpkin Delight elementary schools, along with The Academy and Harborside Middle School.

The board unanimously approved the motion, which recommends authorizing the Connecticut Green Bank, its affiliates, designees, and/or assignees to site, own, operate and maintain a solar array at these schools.

At its April 4 meeting, the P&Z approved the idea of panels on Joseph A. Foran and Jonathan Law high schools, East Shore Middle School, and Mathewson Elementary School.

Solar panels are slated to be installed this summer on these four school buildings with solar panels eventually planned for all school buildings, yielding an estimated $3.4 million in electricity cost savings over a 20-year period.

The P&Z vote was a procedural process known as an 8-24 approval, in which the zoning board provides guidance to the aldermen on matters related to city-owned property. Both proposals now move to the aldermen for a final vote and acceptance of the proposal. Although operated by the Board of Education, the buildings are owned by the city.

At the April 4 meeting, attorney Stephen W. Studer, speaking on behalf of the Board of Education, said there are “no substantial out of pocket costs” to the Board of Education because the developer pays for the installation and maintenance of the panels.

The city agrees to purchase the electricity generated by the panels “at a much lower cost than current rates.” The agreement would last for 20 years, and Studer said the panels have a 25-year lifespan.

James Richetelli Jr., chief operations officer for the school district, made a presentation on the panels at the Board of Education’s Dec. 12, 2016 meeting. Richetelli indicated the district chose Davis Hill Development LLC (DHD) of Port Chester, N.Y., based on experience, recommendations, its local partnership with All Electric Inc., a firm that has had positive experiences within the district, and strong financial backing from the Connecticut Green Bank.

The Connecticut Green Bank was established by the General Assembly in 2011 to leverage public and private funds with the goal of spurring investment in renewable energy initiatives, noted Richetelli in his presentation.