Wilton Celebrates Solar Array Installed at Wilton High School

Source: CT Clean Energy Fund

A dedication ceremony was held April 14, 2011, in Wilton, Conn., to celebrate the installation of a 20-kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system above the science wing at Wilton High School. The solar PV system was installed by Alteris Renewables Inc.

The system was made possible by diverse resources. The Town of Wilton earned 5 kW through CCEF’s Connecticut Clean Energy Communities Program and also received a grant through CCEF’s On-Site Renewable Distributed Generation Program, resulting in total funding by CCEF of $75,575. The balance of the system cost was provided through a generous donation by Ron French, president of Alteris Renewables and former resident of Wilton, who made the donation in memory of his late wife, Sherry French, who was an ardent supporter of the environment and education. French’s contribution supported 15 kW of the system. French additionally made an arrangement with the Town whereby the money that the Town saves in utility bills as a result of the solar installation will be put into an annual scholarship in his wife’s name that will be awarded to a student chosen by the Wilton High School Science Department.

CCEF also provided funding for a special data monitoring system developed by Heliotronics, which will be utilized by students throughout the state as part of CCEF’s Learning for Clean Energy Innovation program.

At the dedication ceremony, remarks were made by representatives from the Town of Wilton; Wilton High School; Alteris Renewables; Little People, Big Changes; and CCEF.

“To insure a sustainable future for our community, Wilton decided early to be a municipal leader in energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy initiatives,” said First Selectman William Brennan. “Our Energy Commission has done a remarkably effective job over the last few years. Wilton has been designated a ‘Clean Energy Community’ and has been selected to participate in the federally funded Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge. While we have made significant progress with a broad range of programs, we still have many challenges to reach our leadership goal, but we will get there!”

Ron French added, “Now more than ever, it is important that students understand that solar and other renewable energy sources offer a viable alternative both today and for their future. I am proud to be able to advance the great educational options of Wilton High School in the memory of my late wife.”

The Wilton Energy Commission, established in 2007, and Little People, Big Changes, a children’s action group founded in 2006 by two 8-year-olds from Wilton, played a key role helping the Town earn 5 kW of solar PV through the Connecticut Clean Energy Communities Program. The latter group was recognized for its impressive efforts in encouraging local signups under the CTCleanEnergyOptionsSM program, earning a Governor’s Climate Change Leadership Award in 2008. Both groups continue to make progress in securing signups.

As of December 31, 2010, Wilton had earned a total of 307 clean energy points from CCEF. Wilton earned one point for each of the 274 customers enrolled in the CTCleanEnergyOptions program and three points for each of the 11 clean energy installations in town. Wilton also earned a bonus kilowatt under the Clean Energy Communities program by surpassing 2.5 percent household participation in the CTCleanEnergyOptions program. The clean energy points and bonus award enabled the Town to earn 5 kW of solar PV from CCEF.

The Town can earn points toward additional clean energy system kilowatts by garnering more clean energy signups or having more local businesses and households install clean energy systems, such as solar PV, solar thermal or geothermal.

“The celebration today is a tribute to the collaboration between CCEF and the citizens of Wilton to advance awareness and use of clean energy options,” said Paula Byrdy, co-chair of the Wilton Energy Commission. “It’s especially appropriate that the solar PV system has been installed at the high school where it will be a laboratory for studies in alternative energy technology, offering our youth an example and, we hope, an inspiration to lead our town and our state to a future independent of fossil fuels.”

The Wilton Energy Commission and Town leaders also helped Wilton meet its clean energy goal of 20% by 2010 and reduce energy use at municipal facilities and schools by 12%.

Looking to the future, Wilton plans to strengthen its commitment to clean energy. In next three years, Wilton will seek to dramatically increase residential enrollments in the CTCleanEnergyOptions program through its participation in the Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge (N2N), a 14-town community energy savings program led by CCEF that was launched last month. Additionally, Wilton Go Green Inc., a committee of the Wilton Energy Commission that promotes clean energy and energy efficiency, has organized the second annual Wilton Go Green Festival. This event will be held on May 1 at the Wilton Library and the Wilton Town Green. Last year, the event featured over 80 exhibitors and attracted more than 1,000 attendees. This year, attendance is expected to easily top that number.

Wilton became a Connecticut Clean Energy Community in 2008. It is one of 53 Connecticut Clean Energy Communities statewide that, collectively, have earned 303 kilowatts of solar PV systems from CCEF. For more information about these and other Connecticut communities, visit the Program Progress Reports page on CCEF’s Web site or the general Communities section,www.ctcleanenergy.com/communities.

“The town government and citizens of all ages in Wilton have engaged in a deliberate, thoughtful process regarding their relationship with energy,” said Bob Wall, director of energy market initiatives for CCEF. “Fortunately, they have developed a holistic and sustainable plan that not only will save money and resources but will create a better quality of life for generations to follow.”