Voluntown goes green with solar panels: Griswold may be next
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Witer
Regional - posted Fri., Apr. 1, 2011
Just in time for daylight saving time, three municipal buildings in Voluntown acquired rooftop solar panels in hopes of using some daylight to save on energy costs. And Griswold's turn may be coming later this spring.
Workers from Rite-Way Restoration Specialists Inc. spent several days last week installing the solar panels on the roofs of the Voluntown public library, the school superintendent’s office and the office/community center of the senior housing complex.
“We’ve got to find a way to get out of that foreign oil,” said Rite-Way co-founder and CEO James Hopkins, who was on-site at the senior center clad in the same company hooded sweatshirt that his workers wore. A dozen or so workers from the Manchester company were up on the structure’s roof, attaching brackets that would eventually hold the solar energy collection panels.
“It all happened quite fast. It was a little exciting,” said senior housing executive director Wendy Vachon. The 40 panels on the structure’s roof should provide the power to help run the center’s lights, washing machines and dryers, she said.
The panels are part of an arrangement between the town and DCS Energy, which offers a solar panel leasing program to towns and other not-for-profit organizations. DCS provides the panels at no charge to the town, and recoups its own expense through energy tax credits. At the end of five years, the town has the option of having the panels removed or keeping them as a donation.
“It costs zero dollars out-of-pocket,” said Hopkins.
Craig Bradway, president of DCS, said that only private entities qualify for federal renewable energy credits, as well as funding through the U.S. Treasury. “That's why we're able to help towns and non-profits,” he said. "They themselves cannot take advantage of the program.”
He estimated that the library, superintendent's office and senior office panels would save the town about $80, $140 and $180 respectively on monthly energy costs. DCS, he said, would reap about $120,000 in tax credits for completing the project.
Griswold first selectman Philip Anthony said that his town is second in line for this year’s scheduled installation of solar panels on municipal buildings. Of the 10 town-owned structures applying for the program, eight were granted preliminary approval, he said.
Anthony met with DCS officials Tuesday to tour the town's structures to determine whether they're appropriate for rooftop panels. Even those that are not may qualify for a ground-mounted system, he said.
“I'm excited that Griswold will continue its process in going green and saving energy,” said Anthony. “This is just one step in that process.”
The town of Salem has had a similar system in place on four town buildings since October, said Salem First Selectman Kevin Lydon. “People think it's too good to be true, but I had this reviewed by the town CPA and town attorney,” he said.
Salem is already realizing some savings, and with the sunny summer months, hopes to save between $8,000 and $10,000 yearly, he said.