Energized: 26 municipal solar projects in Fairfield, 5 more scheduled this year, 4 in planning
FAIRFIELD — The town has put the sun’s free power to good use.
There are 26 municipal solar projects in Fairfield, with five more scheduled to be installed this year, and another four in the planning stages.
There are solar panels atop buildings, panels in the outfield and carports in parking lots that last year saved the town and Board of Education over $160,000. In 2018, that savings should reach about $200,000. In some instances, there is more than one project at a particular location. For example, both high schools have roof panels, as well as solar carports.
“We are helping the environment, helping the economy and helping our taxpayers all at the same time,” First Selectman Mike Tetreau said.
The Board of Selectmen last week approved solar panels for Penfield Pavilion and the regional fire training center. Tetreau said the town has been a leader in solar installations not only on town-owned buildings, but residential buildings as well. About 300 homes in town have solar panels.
“Other towns are coming to see how we are using our school parking lots to save money on electricity,” Tetreau said.
According to Scott Thompson, chairman of the Sustainable Fairfield Task Force, the town “really started ramping up” its solar projects after Tetreau signed the Clean Energy Communities municipal pledge in 2012, and the task force developed its Clean Energy Action Plan in 2013.
He said Tetreau and Assistant Public Works Director Ed Boman have been very effective at leveraging state and federal programs and have “gained broad acceptance of solar by leading with economic arguments first.”
Thompson said the town almost exclusively adopted the power purchase agreement model for its solar projects, which requires no capital investment on the town’s part. It also creates immediate savings on utility bills, he said, and provides long-term protection against utility price increases.
“Going solar has been an economic no-brainer for the town,” Thompson said, “and the environmental benefits are icing on the cake.”
According to Boman, the roof panels at the Animal Shelter and the Public Works garage on a monthly basis sometimes produce more electricity than is actually used at the facility. When that happens, he said, United Illuminating must buy back the extra energy at the same price they sell it to the town.
If more electricity is
Not all solar projects proposed by the town have gone forward. Solar carports at the downtown train station, and at the marina, met with opposition and weren’t ultimately done. A lawsuit was filed over the solar carports installed at the Postol Recreation parking lot.
After the uproar over the solar carports at the recreation center, town officials began having meetings with nearby residents of proposed projects.
“Solar energy is just one area,” Tetreau said. “While the town started many years ago focused on clean energy, we have evolved our approach to a more comprehensive focus on sustainability.
We are helping the environment, helping the economy and helping our taxpayers all at the same time.”
Municipal solar projects
Existing as of March 2018
Fairfield Woods branch library
Public Works garage (2)
Animal Shelter (2)
Fairfield Theatre Co.
Smith Richardson garage
Fairfield Ludlowe High School
Fairfield Warde High School
Fairfield Woods Middle School
Mill Hill School
Expected construction 2018
Fire training center
Senior Center annex
Holland Hill School
Tomlinson Middle School