The Wilton Energy Commission is looking to install solar panels on top of Miller-Driscoll School, Middlebrook School and Wilton High School next summer as part of its new Municipal Solar Project. At its Dec. 19 meeting, the Board of Selectmen approved the hiring of New Canaan-based clean energy development consultant MHR Development to help find and manage a vendor for the project. Wilton Energy Commission Co-chair Richard Creeth brought the Board of Education up to date on the project, which the commission has been working on for about six months, during the board\u2019s Dec. 8 meeting. The town of Wilton pledged to reduce its energy consumption 20% by the year 2020, said Creeth, and the Municipal Solar Project is going to be \u201ca significant part\u201d of that. \u201cIt also is going to be a significant reduction in the town\u2019s carbon footprint,\u201d he said, \u201cand a building block to energy independence.\u201d The project\u2019s objective is to generate solar energy locally in order to satisfy part of the town\u2019s school electricity requirements at a price lower than for electricity purchased from Eversource and other providers. \u201cThis is basically a 20-year program,\u201d said Creeth, \u201cand by year 20, electrical savings are expected to exceed $1.1 million.\u201d In the first year of the Municipal Solar Project\u2019s implementation, Creeth said, the town would save \u201cat least $30,000.\u201d \u201cThe key to this is that we will be generating power and paying for that at a price that\u2019s lower than what we pay to the utility,\u201d he said. \u201cThat price is going to be fixed for the duration of the project. In 20 years\u2019 time, we\u2019d still be paying the same amount.\u201d ZRECs Under state law, Eversource and United Illuminating are required to make $1.02 billion in zero-emission renewable energy credit (ZREC) and low-emission renewable energy credit (LREC) purchases from clean energy projects over six years. As part of the program, the utility companies will spend $720 million on ZRECs, which originate from sources like solar, wind and small hydro that generate no emissions. \u201cA ZREC is basically one megawatt-hour of generated power,\u201d said Creeth. Through the Municipal Solar Project, Eversource would pay the town $125 for every megawatt-hour of electricity\u00a0that it generates from the new solar panels, said Creeth, \u201cwhich really makes the finances work in our favor.\u201d Power purchase agreement For the project, the town would commit to a power purchase agreement (PPA) from a third-party financer, which would likely be the Connecticut Green Bank, said Creeth. \u201cA PPA will actually hire a developer to put the whole system on the \u2026 roofs and they\u2019ll own it,\u201d said Creeth. All the town would have to do, he said, is \u201csign an agreement that says we will buy the power that the thing generates.\u201d Under the PPA program terms, a solar system is purchased and installed by a third party. The party would be responsible for all ongoing costs associated with the system, would own the power the system generates, and would sell that power to the town at a price defined in the PPA. With a PPA, there is no investment from the town, said Creeth \u2014 merely a commitment to purchase the power. There is a 20-year fixed rate for solar power in a PPA, and solar generation would directly offset each site\u2019s electric bill. Because a third party would be responsible for installation costs, maintenance, operation, and eventual removal of the system, the town would assume no responsibility for the equipment. After 20 years, the town could then elect to extend the PPA, remove the equipment at no cost, or purchase the array at fair market value. Net metering Net metering \u2014 the system in which the solar panels would connect to a public-utility power grid \u2014 would be leveraged from Eversouce, said Creeth, and excess kilowatt-hours (kWh) generated by the panels would be transferred onto the grid, offsetting the cost of future electric bills. There is a one-to-one transaction value per kWh, \u201cregardless of when the power was created and consumed,\u201d Creeth noted. Unconsumed kWh credits that a school banked while closed in July, for example, would be applied to its August\/September electric bills until consumed. Steps forward In July, ZRECs were bonded with Eversource for $9,860 and the Board of Selectmen directed Chris Burney, facilities and energy management director, and the Wilton Energy Commission to begin the rooftop validation process, financial analysis of the acquisition alternatives and request for proposal (RFP)process. In October, the selectmen approved structuring of the solar RFP to solicit bids for a turnkey power purchase agreement proposal. With the selectmen\u2019s approval earlier this week, Wilton Energy Commission Co-chair Debra Thompson-Van told The Bulletin, \u201cwe will be looking for assistance to get the word out that we will be pursuing an RFP for the solar on [the] schools.\u201d \u201cWe will be issuing one RFP, and the way we\u2019re expecting it to work is the solar vendor will come in, structural engineers will come in, and we will validate what the roofs are,\u201d Thompson-Van said at the Board of Selectmen\u2019s Dec. 19 meeting. \u201cWe will then \u2014\u00a0not directly \u2014 contract with solar vendors. We, the town, contract with the PPA holder, who then turns around and contracts with that solar vendor for the equipment.\u201d The next step in the process requires the selectmen\u2019s approval of a PPA provider and solar installation vendor, followed by its approval of a solar installation plan and dates.According to Creeth, the energy commission hopes to finish the RFP in January so the solar panels can be installed over the summer.