Selectmen Approve Seven Solar Installations

James Lomuscio | Westport Now

After more than an hour of discussions, Westport’s Board of Selectmen today approved five agreements between the town and Greenskies Renewable Energy, LLC for seven solar panel installations throughout town.

The installations, which do not require a town appropriation and will be performed by Greenskies, include: three at Staples High School, one at Bedford Middle School, one at Coleytown Elementary School, one at the Westport Center for Senior Activities, and one at the Westport Library.

According to David Mann, chairman of the Green Task Force, which, with the Board of Education, initiated the request for proposals (RFP) and chose Middletown-based Greenskies, the three at Staples will comprise one photovoltaic installation on the Staples roof over the pool and two solar-shaded parking areas.

Mann said Coleytown’s would be a rooftop system and Bedford’s, a ground-mounted system on a grassy area, the Senior Center would have a solar-shaded system in its north parking lot, and the Westport Library’s would be a rooftop one.

According to Mann, five, at an average 8.5 cents per KW hour “would generate seven figures of savings over the seven systems” over the contracts’ 20 years.

The selectmen received input from town and school officials present, as well as Greenskies director of development, Westport resident Ron Wedeking, who was present.

Marpe called the initiative “a piece of this whole sustainability process.”

According to the RFP, which had been issued on April 20, the goals of the project include complying with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, and “to take incremental steps toward Westport’s goal of a net-zero community by 2050 by reducing Westport’s carbon levels via harvesting and utilizing renewable forms of energy.”

“How does Greenskies make money?” Marpe asked, in response to the comments that there would be no appropriation and that the vendor would be responsible for all the construction, even relocating existing lighting fixture in the parking areas.

Mann said that solar company would “make money by us paying them for the energy they produce.” He also said Greenskies would benefit from tax credits by way of the Zero Emission Renewable Energy Credit (ZREC) Program.

Marpe raised the issue that “this being Westport,” some neighbors might object to the overhead, solar-shaded systems designed for parking lots. Board of Education Member Candace Savin said the board had reached out to Staples’ neighbors.

“I appreciate the outreach initiatives, so there are no surprises from a public standpoint,” said Marpe.

Mann added that overhead, solar units would be installed away from the school’s borders.

He also said that shaded-solar installation at the Senior Center would face the Masiello Bus Company garage, not residents.

School and town officials lauded the plan, including Paul Mazzaccaro, the Westport Library’s chief administrative officer.

“We’re pleased as punch,” he said, adding that the installation would also support the library’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational programs.

Perhaps the best convincing for Marpe, as well as Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker and Selectwoman Melissa Kane, who participated by phone, came from attorney Douglas E. LoMonte, who specializes in contracts for the town.

“I am comfortable with the contracts; I feel the town is protected,” he said.

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