7 Manchester buildings go solar

Dec. 30—MANCHESTER — Town officials have announced plans to install solar energy panels and systems at seven municipal buildings, projected to save the town over $100,000 annually on electricity.

Solar energy

WHAT: The Connecticut Green Bank will cover all up-front costs to install solar energy systems on seven town buildings.

WHEN: Of the seven, five buildings have been completed, with two scheduled to go online in early 2023.

WHERE: The Water & Sewer Department building, and six town schools

Town Manager Steven Stephanou said the solar projects are being conducted through a power purchase agreement with the Connecticut Green Bank, who pays for all up-front costs through its Solar Municipal Assistance Program.

The Connecticut Green Bank was established by the state in 2011 as a quasi-public organization, using government subsidies and private-sector investors to support the growth of "green" energy.

Stephanou said projects have been completed at Martin, Waddell, and Verplank elementary schools, as well as at Highland Park School and Manchester Regional Academy.

Systems at Manchester High School and the Water & Sewer Department building are expected to go online early next year.

Stephanou said the agreement allows the Green Bank to locate its solar systems on the town's property for a 20-year period.

Connecticut Green Bank retains ownership of the systems during the agreement, and is solely responsible for any maintenance.

Connecticut Green Bank said it has partnered with Greenskies Clean Focus to install the equipment, and with Inclusive Prosperity Capital, a non-profit organization, to own and maintain the system.

Stephanou said the arrangement allows the town to receive stable, low-cost energy for its buildings, while the Green Bank receives financial benefits including tax credits and income from the sale of the generated electricity back into the utilities' grid.

"We don't pay for the cost of the installation ... we just realize the savings of the cheaper power," Stephanou said, adding that the town expects $2.1 million in savings over the period of the agreement.

Stephanou said at the end of the 20-year agreement, the town would either purchase the solar energy equipment from the Green Bank or enter into another power purchase agreement with a third party.

Superintendent of Schools Matthew Geary said he welcomes the cost savings with the solar program, but also sees it as a benefit for the town's students.

"Investing in clean, renewable energy is one more way we can ensure a better future for them," Geary said.

The renovated "net-zero" Buckley Elementary School, completed earlier this year, has solar panels and geothermal wells independent of the Green Bank agreement.

The overhaul was funded by the $93 million SMARTR2 referendum approved in 2019, which is split between $88 million in bonding and $5 million in reserve funds.

The project includes renovations to Bowers, Buckley, and Keeney schools, as well as planning for upgrades to other schools.

Plans for Keeney were approved in November, with a "net-zero" design incorporating solar and geothermal systems similar to Buckley.

Renovations are scheduled for completion in 2024.

Stephanou said the town is excited to be one of the first municipalities to work with the Connecticut Green Bank's Solar Municipal Assistance Program.

"This project showcases the town's ongoing commitment to prioritizing renewable efforts and is one step closer to ensuring a cleaner and more sustainable future for the Manchester community," Stephanou said.

Joseph covers Manchester and Bolton for the Journal Inquirer.