Solar panels headed to five Ridgefield schools

Five more Ridgefield elementary schools will join Farmingville with solar panels providing green electricity.
The town has accepted bids from Davis Hill Development of Greenwich to install roof-mounted solar panel systems at Scotts Ridge Middle School and Ridgebury, Scotland, Veterans Park, and Barlow Mountain elementary schools, according to documents on the town website.
Purchasing director Jake Muller said taxpayers will not see a direct cost for the installation of the panels.
“The funding is through the Green Bank, and so that’s what allows the taxpayer to not see a direct cost for the installation of the solar panel arrays,” he said.
The Connecticut Green Bank funding allows municipalities to pay a reduced rate for the electricity generated by the solar panels, rather than paying for the upfront cost of bolting the panels to the roof of the building.
Ridgebury, Scotland, and Veterans Park would pay $0.0420 per kilowatt for electricity produced by the panels for 20 years, according to the bid documents. Electricity generated on the panels at Barlow Mountain and Scotts Ridge would cost $0.0590 per kilowatt. Each of the systems at the five schools has the capacity to produce 100 kilowatts.
At a current rate of $0.0880 per kilowatt from the grid, that means schools would be paying as much as 52 percent less for power generated by the solar panels.
Work is being done now to install the panels at Barlow Mountain and Scotts Ridge. Muller said the town hopes to have the solar panels up at the three remaining schools before the winter.
Barlow Mountain will have a system of 380 panels, and Scotts Ridge will have 400 panels. The number of panels at the three other schools still needs to be finalized, but Muller said the systems should range from around 350 to 400 panels, depending on access to sunlight on the roof of each building.
The panels will not make the buildings energy-independent — all of the schools will remain connected to the electrical grid; power generated by the panels will offset how much electricity the schools have to pull in from the grid.
What’s next?
The town also solicited bids to install solar panels at Branchville Elementary School, but none of the bids for that request were approved, Muller said.
He said the town plans to request more bids for other municipal and school buildings in the next six months. Schools are good candidates for solar power because of the roof space available.
“We should know what buildings we can do in the next three weeks,” Muller said.
Town and school officials have previously discussed the idea of installing solar panels at the high school. Because of that buildings high electrical needs, the town plans to put a 250 kilowatt system on the roof, though the actual proposals may vary in output.
The panels will reduce the amount of electricity the high school draws from the grid, but not as dramatically as other schools.
“Adding the panels will reduce it, but it won’t be as large of a reduction as it is at the smaller schools,” Muller said.
A system of 377 solar panels was installed on the roof of Farmingville Elementary School in 2016. The system powers around 80 percent of the school’s electrical needs, The Press previously reported.