Borough eyes solar panel project at elementary school

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — Officials are aiming to install an array of solar panels on the roof of Andrew Avenue Elementary School.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses July 7 unanimously approved applying for the Zero Emission Renewable Energy Credit (ZREC) Program for a proposed solar project at the elementary school.

Under the ZREC program, the state pays companies a set rate for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of power generated. The companies then sell the energy to their clients under a power purchase agreement intended to save the buyers money.

The borough is working with Advanced Energy Efficiencies out of Woodbridge on the project.

Advanced Energy Efficiencies co-owner Gary Hale said the plan is to put solar panels on the school’s roof, but it’s unclear as to how many. The solar panels would be secured on top of the roof and not embedded in the roof, he said.

Last year, officials ran into trouble when the solar panels that were built into Naugatuck High School’s roof when it was replaced about 10 years ago failed. Officials initially thought the entire roof needed to be replaced, but later determined the panels could be removed and any holes patched instead.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the Andrew Avenue Elementary School project is part of an overall plan to implement energy-savings programs wherever possible.

“We’re working on energy savings on a town-wide basis on all our buildings,” Hess said.

Hale said officials will know whether they’ve been approved for the ZREC program by early September. Advanced Energy Efficiencies is covering the cost to apply for the program, he said. The preliminary estimate for the entire project is about $600,000, Hale said.

Hess said the borough is planning to enter into a power purchase agreement, if the panels are installed, and the cost and maintenance of the panels will be borne by private investors.

If the plan moves ahead, the project could get underway in the early spring and possibly be up and running sometime next summer, according to Hale.

“They’re (Naugatuck) really trying to cut the municipal carbon footprint and become an outstanding environmental community,” Hale said.

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