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West Hartford mayor flips switch on solar array on top of town hall

Hartford Courant logoHartford Courant 10/28/2019 By Emily Brindley, Hartford Courant

A small crowd gathered on the roof of West Hartford’s town hall on Monday afternoon and cheered as Mayor Shari Cantor flipped a large red switch — officially turning on a solar array that spreads across nearly every square foot of town hall’s central roof.

The array, which is owned and operated by the Hartford-based company Verogy, will provide town hall with about 20 percent of its annual energy needs, the town said.

Verogy COO and co-founder Steven DeNino said the array will produce 141,000 kilowatt hours per year, which could power 16 houses for one year.

The town hall solar project is one of about 12 in town. The town is aiming to one day derive all of its power needs from renewable energy sources.

Cantor said she thinks the town may reach that goal by the end of 2020.

In the past seven or eight years, Cantor said, the town has reduced its municipal electricity use by 20 percent. The town said this equals cost savings of more than $700,000.

The town’s sustainability efforts make it a model for others, Cantor said.

“We understand that our town needs to be an example,” Cantor said. “Not only for our state, but our country and our globe.”

The town’s energy specialist, Catherine Diviney, said the partnership with Verogy is mutually beneficial.

Because Verogy owns and operates the solar panels, the company is eligible to receive incentives through an Eversource-facilitated program that supports renewable energy projects. The town wouldn’t be able to receive these incentives directly, because they come in the form of tax credits and the town is already exempt from taxes.

But, with Verogy receiving the incentives, the company can then sell the power back to the town at a reduced rate.

The town installs solar arrays on town buildings wherever possible, Diviney said. However, buildings with older roofs typically aren’t used for solar arrays because it would be too costly to remove and then reinstall the panels in order to replace the roof.

“We’re big fans of on-site solar,” Diviney said. “Anytime we re-roof or have a newer roof, we look to put solar on it.”

Now that the town hall solar project is up and running, the town is turning its attention to planning a massive solar array on top of King Philip Middle School. That project will be five times the size of the town hall project, Diviney said.

Emily Brindley can be reached at ebrindley@courant.com.

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©2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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