Waterford Looks to Solar, LEDs to Save $800k

Waterford is planning to save $800,000 in energy costs with LED lights and solar panels at Quaker Hill Elementary School through a program funded by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.

Wednesday night, Superintendent Jerome Belair announced his plans to team with a Berlin energy company to save $800,000 over the next 25 years by using solar energy and LED lighting.

DBS Energy Inc, a Berlin company, has done an energy audit of Waterford’s schools and plans on putting solar panels on the roof of Quaker Hill Elementary School and to change the outdoor lighting at all five Waterford schools to LED lights. Those moves would save the town $800,000 in energy costs over the next 25 years, according to a presentation by the owners of DBS Energy Inc.

“We continue to explore ways to save money on the operational side (of the school budget) so we can keep the educational programs,” Belair said. “This is a great opportunity to do that.”

All of the upgrades to the schools would be paid for by grants from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, and cost Waterford taxpayers nothing. The plan put forward Wednesday night is just a beginning, as there is the potential for more energy-saving initiatives by DBS.

“There is more potential here,” Belair said. “But we need to start somewhere.”

The amount of energy produced by the solar panels could be linked to Waterford School District’s website, for the community to see, according to Eric Bartone of DBS Energy. The panels could also be incorporated into the science curriculum, Belair said.

How It Works

The state mandates that a certain percentage of energy in the state is produced by renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. It also mandates certain energy-efficient programs to cut down on the state’s energy use.

To achieve that, an extra fee is put on Connecticut electricity bills to pay for the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. The Clean Energy Fund finds projects to fund that will either make buildings more energy-efficient or find ways to produce non-renewable energy.

The initiatives by DBS are all funded by Clean Energy Fund grants, as DBS works with local municipalities to make their buildings more energy efficient. For the Waterford program, the solar panels at Quaker Hill Elementary School and the changing of the outdoor lights to LED lights will be paid for by those grants.

What the Clean Energy Fund will pay for is constantly changing, so there are always new grants popping up, Bartone said. What made the most sense, with the available grants, was to do the solar panels at Quaker Hill and the LED outdoor lighting, but there could be more opportunities as different grants become available in the future, Bartone said.

Bartone said DBS has worked with dozens of municipalities, and there is never any cost to them for these programs. Additionally, the Clean Energy Fund mandates that DBS is responsible for all maintenance of all equipment and covers the cost of replacement in case it is damaged.

“We are protected in everyway,” said Phil Russell, who is Waterford’s interim school business manager.

Waterford has not gotten the grants yet, but Belair said he feels “very confident” Waterford will be able to get them. The hope is to have this LED lighting and solar panels installed by the start of the 2013-14 school year, and begin the energy savings, he said.

Year Approximate Electricity Savings Year 1 $13,600 ...Year 11 $39,000 ...Year 21 $49,000 ...Year 25 $52,000

Total over



*There are savings every year, we just picked years with large jumps to show the trend over time.

Foofaraw March 29, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Sounds like a good use of State funds to me---if it had to be used might as well be our town. Also, I hope they have a plan to keep them clean---with all those buzzards up there pooping on them all day long it might be tough for the sun to shine through.
Ron March 29, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Lets see...the projection is for $ 800,000 "saving" over 25 years. Waterford will need these savings in the year 2038 (25 years) because retirement benefits for EACH town workers will require over $ 800,000 to $ 1,200,000 for retirees living 25 years in retirement. Lets put $ 800,00 of "projected" savings in context. Waterford schools in the recent school budget hearing said that a " $ 75,000" line item in school budget was such a trivial amount it wasn't worthy of a discussion. Thus using the math above it will take 7 years of projected electric savings to equal the $ 75,000 that was not discussed. Because the State of CT is providing this money it seems "free" but really isn't "free money" . Free money is the $ 2,200,000 Molloy just gave the State workers for not participating in the medical wellness program. Now that's a definition of free money that would equal 75 years of " free" electricity. It would be cheaper for the State to have given Waterford the $ 2,200,000 given to State workers for not participating in the wellness program and have free electricity for 75 years than give this paltry LED electric savings grant to Chinese manufacturers of the LEDs. The real comparison is New London who installed solar lighting on their parking garage and see what the real savings in New London were against these projections. Even if the technologies are different, the same fuzzy math projections were probably employed to determine savings.
Daniella Ruiz March 30, 2013 at 08:42 AM
ron, thanks for mentioning that little future pension/retirement/handout expense. i forgot about that minor detail, as if it could be swept beneath the 'carpet of ignorance' that occludes so much enlightenment around here. these 'heads' are so narrowly on their own domain they incrementally sacrifice the whole for their personal little power trips.
Michael March 30, 2013 at 03:14 PM
A surcharge on Connecticut ratepayers' utility bills provides the funding for the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. So to say this is no cost to Waterford taxpayers is a misrepresentation of the facts. Surcharges on our utility bills fund this for Waterford and every other city and town in Connecticut.
Foofaraw March 31, 2013 at 02:57 PM
I don't think anyone thinks it's "Free Money" of course there's no such thing. The fact is, money has been allocated and people, businesses and towns apply for the program. The money will be spent on "clean energy" regardless of who gets it---so, I say good job for Waterford for getting it. It does save Waterford taxpayers money. What is so hard to understand? If you don't like paying the surcharge (on your electric bill) then get the heck off the grid, plain and simple!


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