Wilton officials sign agreement to sell solar power

The Board of Selectmen said yes to the possibility of generating solar electricity Tuesday, July 26, when it voted unanimously to approve a standard contract with Eversource, the power company, for the purchase and sale of Connecticut Class I Renewable Energy Credits for possible solar arrays at Miller-Driscoll and Middlebrook schools. The contract, which is non-binding, allows the town to move forward and evaluate solar.

The selectmen secured the contract in which Eversource has promised to purchase Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credits with a wire transfer of $9,680.60 for two performance bonds. Twenty percent of the bonds are refundable if the town does not proceed with the solar installations.

The total value of the solar array installations for the two schools is $1.9 million. The equipment will technically be owned by, maintained and leased from The Connecticut Green Bank, a quasi-public agency which finances green energy projects.

The total value of the ZRECs that Eversource will buy, in lieu of producing their own solar power, is $1.3 million over 15 years. The schools’ monthly power bill including that lease payment will be less than a current electric bill. The possible savings in electricity over 20 years could be $1.1 million, depending on the production capacity of the arrays.

Those figures were presented to the selectmen by Stephan Hartmann, solar consultant for the Ross Solar Group, a Danbury-based company, who consulted with the Energy Commission in preparing their bid for the ZRECS and worked with the town on the Solarize Wilton project.

It is not a done deal though. There are still details to explore, such as whether the roofs of the schools are in good enough shape to support the solar system for the next 20 years. There will also be a financial analysis of  possible savings to the town and officials would have to evaluate whether to purchase or lease the system.

Chris Burney, the town’s director of  facilities and energy management, welcomed the new development.

“I think the opportunity for long-term savings on electricity is real,” he said.

The energy deal rang true with the selectmen.

“I’m prepared to do this, based on what I’ve heard tonight, but I want to be sure the Board of Education and the other boards are OK with it,” said Selectman Michael Kaelin, who made the motion for approval of the agreement.

By the middle of October, there should be design and structural analysis completed, said Debra Thompson-Van, co-chair of the town’s Energy Commission. If that goes well the project could proceed.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said the offer is being made because Connecticut law encourages alternative energy sources, and there is a program where Eversource is required to invest in renewable energy sources like solar. The power company is required to give out so much every year in grants to others who will generate the solar power for the grid.

In the grant, the power company is committing to buy excess electricity generated by Wilton at a certain price. There is a quantity it is willing to purchase.

The deadline for committing the town to the solar program is Thursday, July 28 (today), which means the town had to use overnight mail to send the bank check representing the performance bond, said Thompson-Van.

The system consists of solar panels and a power inverter that converts the direct current power to alternating current, according to Hartmann.

The electricity is put onto the grid, and a meter keeps track of how much is generated. There is no storage battery system involved, Hartmann said.