The city is considering installing solar panels on five schools and the library, a project that is expected to save Danbury millions in energy costs.
The City Council is expected to discuss the $13.1 million project at its Wednesday evening meeting. Most of that cost is anticipated to be paid for through state grants, while the rest would be covered by future electric savings. The city would pay back the cost over almost nine years.
“The technology is here, and it’s time to keep looking at this as ways to go green, be green,” Mayor Joe Cavo said.
Solar panels would be installed on the library, Broadview, Rogers Park and Westside middle schools, King Street Primary School, and Danbury High School and its carport.
The school district is estimated to save $700,000 annually after the city finishes covering the lease payments, according to documents submitted to City Council.
“There should be some tremendous savings going forward,” Cavo said.
Danbury plans to apply for state school construction grants to cover about $8 million of the cost for the education buildings. The library is not eligible for this funding. The estimated $5.1 million in electric savings over almost nine years would cover the rest of the cost.
The electric savings and credits from Eversource’s Zero Emission Renewable Energy Certification program would be applied toward lease payments.
The city has hired Johnson Controls, Inc. to design and provide engineering and other services for the arrays for a fee of about $97,600. That fee would be waived if the city agrees for the company to do the project within 60 days of gaining approval for the state grants.
It’s possible the “potential financials could improve” if Johnson Controls receives additional funding through the renewable energy program, according a letter to the city.
A city and school energy efficiency committee worked with a consultant, NV5, to pick where to install solar. These schools were selected because they are eligible for funding and it would be easier to install the panels there based on an initial assessment, said David St. Hilaire, the city’s finance director who is on the committee.
“We’re going to do the deep dive into the engineering now,” he said.
Schools with older roofs that need to be replaced are not good options, he said.
Ellsworth Avenue and Park Avenue elementary schools already have solar panels.
The high school’s array would be the largest of the proposed at about 1,064 kilowatts direct current, while the library’s would be the smallest at about 148 kilowatts direct current.
Katie Pearson, director at the Danbury Library, said she didn’t know much about the project, but that she’d support solar panels the building.
“I’m sure it would save some money,” she said.
The committee is exploring other lighting or solar projects, which other schools could be a part of, St. Hilaire said.
“We’re not looking at this as a one-time thing,” St. Hilaire said. “Our energy savings program, it’s multi-faceted, but this is a project that is easily achievable.”
The city would apply for the state grant by Aug. 9, with the solar arrays being designed by Oct. 30, according to an agreement between the city and Johnson Controls.
Construction on the panels at the schools would start during summer break next year, St. Hilaire said.