Energy Committee hosts 'Energy and Environmental Fair'

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Thu., Jun. 16, 2011
Gene Fry and David Hayward, of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, provided information about cost-saving home energy solutions at the recent Stafford Energy and Environmental Fair. Photos by Annie Gentile.
Gene Fry and David Hayward, of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, provided information about cost-saving home energy solutions at the recent Stafford Energy and Environmental Fair. Photos by Annie Gentile.

Interest in cutting or even eliminating costs of home heating fuel, electricity and gasoline is on the rise in the Stafford community.

On Saturday, June 11, the all-volunteer Stafford Energy Committee sponsored the Stafford Energy and Environmental Fair as a means to alert and educate residents on ways to conserve energy and save money in the process. Held at Stafford High School, the fair included representatives from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, photovoltaic and geothermal contractors, suppliers of energy-efficient vehicles, lighting, environmental organizations, and more.

Len Clark, co-chair of the committee, said the average homeowner who attended the fair could learn what is available and decide if any of the systems on display could be of benefit to them in saving energy and money.

With the help of the Stafford Energy Committee, the Town of Stafford has already taken steps to start lowering its energy costs.

“The Stafford Energy Committee has been involved in a program to have as much as 100 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic solar panels installed on seven town buildings,” said Clark. “These installations are basically free to the town. So far, two systems have been installed and are producing electricity at the Stafford Library and the West Stafford Fire Department. Another system is to also be installed at the West Stafford Fire Department shortly.”

All together, the value of the 100 kilowatts will be in the range of $600,000 and will produce an estimated $20,000 worth of electricity for the town, Clark said, adding that the systems were provided by DCS Energy based in Glastonbury, and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Chris Wierzbicki of Nutmeg Mechanical Services said his company specializes in geothermal heating and cooling systems, which, when installed, do call for a larger up-front investment but for the average 3,000-square-foot or smaller home, tend to pay for themselves in savings over a seven- to 10-year period. Energy-efficient and less polluting to the environment, geothermal systems also eliminate the need for oil or natural gas for heating.

“A geothermal system costs on average about 60 percent less to operate than a conventional heating system, which can be very beneficial to homeowners when they reach retirement age and are on a fixed income,” said Wierzbicki, adding that a 30-percent federal tax credit and rebates through Connecticut Light and Power can help the buyer get back about half the cost in credits.

Representatives from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund said there are many other ways electric rate payers can lower their monthly utility bills, starting first with a home energy audit. Savings can be found in a number of ways, such as by replacing standard light bulbs with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs and purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Northeast Utilities Energy Efficiency Evaluation Manager Gene Fry said that all rate payers can do their part to reduce electricity demand and postpone or even eliminate the necessity of building additional power plants by shifting use of appliances to non-peak times of the day.

The fair also features some energy-efficient vehicles. Besides the expected hybrids, Proton Energy of Wallingford had on display its new all-electric vehicle, which runs on hydrogen gas.

“It’s a zero-emission vehicle,” said Proton representative Steve Szymanski. “The key is, where do you fill it up?”

Szymanski said Proton develops the hydrogen fueling systems for the cars, while its sister company, SunHydro, is in the process of building a network of fueling stations along the east coast. The “hydrogen highway” is intended to be ready to coincide with car companies’ plan to release the cars by 2015.

“There are some really good incentives out there,” said Clark. “We want to help Stafford residents to become energy independent.”

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