New Canaan to undergo energy efficiency projects including mini power plants

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NEW CANAAN – The city has confirmed that it will continue to make progress towards integrating more energy-efficient projects, including the addition of mini-power plants, but admitted that hopes the West school will receive such a power plant were weak and that future solar energy deals may not be as successful as years past.

On Monday, Selectmen’s buildings and infrastructure advisory committee discussed installing more solar panels and setting up mini power plants called combined heat and power (CHP).

The environmental footprint of a cogeneration is equivalent to taking 25 cars off the road and saving the municipality money, municipal consultant Mark Robbins of MHR Development told the committee on July 12.


The city has already implemented solar energy on four municipal buildings and three elementary schools and placed cogeneration on two buildings in the city.


On solar power deals, Robbins said the city might not see them as often because “material costs, as you can imagine, are on the rise,” the consultant explained.

In addition to the increase in costs, the federal investment tax credit, which benefits investors, has been reduced from 30% to 26%, meaning that “the costs of materials go up, the tax credits increase. decrease ”and credits for renewables“ will be lower, ”says Robbins.

The upshot is that “we’ll pay more for PPAs” or power purchase agreements in the future, Robbins told the seven-member committee, which oversees major capital expenditures related to buildings and infrastructure owned by the company. the city, including schools.

The school district has entered into a PPA for the three elementary schools, which means that a third-party developer owns and maintains the system at little or no cost to the schools. Schools receive electricity at a lower rate than the local utility’s retail rate while the developer receives the revenue from these electricity sales along with any tax credits and other incentives generated by the system.

New Canaan currently has solar power on Town Hall, the Waveny Park Pool Building, the Nature Center Animal Building, and the Highway Garage.

The next project to start on solar panel additions is at New Canaan High School, which is now getting a new roof first.

Even though the district won’t get such a great PPA deal, it will still save the Board of Education $ 100,000 in grade one because it’s “such a big building,” Robbins said. . According to city studies, the school uses more energy than any other building in the city.

The Saxony Middle School solar installation “hit an obstacle on the road,” said Jo-Ann Keating, director of finance and operations for New Canaan Public Schools.

The engineer hired by the district has been waiting for four months for information on the wind resistance calculations on the shelving system that holds the solar panels. Robbins said he lobbied the company and was “hopeful.”

Mini power plants

The city plans to install more mini power plants, or cogenerations, which are gas engines that produce electricity at the point of consumption. It is said to save energy as it is not wasted traveling along transmission lines.

Two cogeneration units have already been installed on the town’s land, one near the motorway garage and the other near the wastewater treatment plant.

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said he hopes to have four more CHP units installed in town, including at Lapham Center, one outside City Hall, one at Saxe Middle School and another at New Canaan High. School.

The city benefits from cogeneration because it gets a utility discount as it reduces grid stress and produces heat and thermal power for free, Robbins said.

The cogeneration consists of two components manufactured by Yanmar in Japan – one on the outside of a building measuring 2.5 feet deep, 5 feet wide and 6 feet high and one inside which includes racks with equipment ranging from five to 10 feet high.

The 35-kilowatt unit systems are similar to those the city has been running for about four months. They are “very sturdy, very well built and quite quiet,” Robbins said.

Installing cogeneration at City Hall would produce “at least 61% electricity and cost $ 270,000, saving $ 39,042 in electricity each year,” according to the consultant. This estimate would mean that the city would be repaid for its investment in nearly seven years.

Gas is needed for cogeneration and the lines have not yet reached the town hall. “I think the gas is coming this summer,” Robbins said.

“We are forgoing supplying gas to the West School,” Moynihan told the committee. Instead, the school will receive propane tanks for electricity.

Lapham has yet to install gas either, but it is expected that when it does, cogeneration will cost $ 268,180 and save $ 25,204 per year, which Robbins calculated as a payback period of 10.6 years.

Robbins estimates that the Lapham Center cogeneration would produce 140% of the energy load required for the building. Therefore, the city could combine electricity meters for Lapham and the sports field to allow the city to light the fields with this additional electricity.

The cogeneration project for the high school will be reviewed by the district and depends on the results of the solar project, Keating said. She expects to have an estimate close to the 2022-2023 budget talks.

The YMCA and the library are also considering cogeneration systems, Moynihan revealed.


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