As published in the Record Journal Friday April 27, 2012
By Jesse Buchanan
WALLINGFORD — The town’s high schools are planned to have solar panel arrays as part of a two-year roof replacement project following a Town Council vote Thursday.
Councilors voted unanimously chose 25-year roofs for the high schools and middle schools and to put solar panels on the high school roofs. The cost for all five schools with the lowest bidders is $9,174,000.
Michael Brodinsky, chairman of the School Roof Building Committee, said he is pleased with the number and quality of bids, which were opened last week.
“The bids were very favorable, very fair,” he said. “They were good numbers.”
The committee was formed to guide the town in replacing aging roofs on 11 of the town’s 12 schools.
Brodinsky asked the council Thursday to choose between 20 and 25 year roofs for the schools. He also asked the council to decide how many, if any, schools were built with solar panels.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said the panels would be integrated into the curriculum and students could check energy savings online. “Science curriculum at both the middle schools and high schools has a great foundation in the whole concept of energy conservation,” Menzo said.
Councilors questioned the economic feasibility of the solar panels which, if installed on two high schools and two middle schools, would cost several hundred thousand dollars.
The roof project committee provided information on the panels, which have an estimated 33-year payback and a lifespan of between 20 and 30 years.
Town Councilor Thomas Laffin asked Menzo if solar panel kits bought at toy stores would provide the same educational benefit. He said the solar panels would be a poor financial decision which would also send a message to students.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. was also concerned about the financial aspects of the solar panels.
“If this were purely a biz decision, we wouldn’t be discussing this. That troubles me,” Dickinson said.
Menzo said he’d never presented the panels as a moneymaking endeavor for the district, but as a way to put into practice energy-saving principles.
The council discussed adding solar panels to the two high schools, which would add $120,000 to the project after receiving nearly 50 percent reimbursement from the state.
Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos said the cost of the panels is only a small portion of the total project.
Councilor Jason Zandri tried to add solar panels to two middle schools, but the motion failed with only Economopoulos supporting him.
Councilor Craig Fishbein said the town could fund the solar panels through fines levied against Covanta by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Fishbein said the department may give the fines, totaling more than $400,000, to the town for energy conservation projects.