Solar Panels Will Provide Electricity to Newtown Plant

Silent and beautiful, the solar panels will eventually pay for themselves.


On Tuesday, there was a ribbon cutting for the brand-new solar panels that will supply 30% of the energy needed to run the waste water plant on Commerce Road. 

The solar panels look like a solid reflective river that stretches into the distance, and the silent energy they are producing is almost palpable.  The panels are on a single axis rotation, and follow the sun east to west each day, 365 days a year, even in cloudy weather. 

The panels run on about 100 kilwatts of self generated energy.  Over the course of a year, the waste water treatment plant uses 587,520 kwh.  These panels will now provide 134,520 kwh of free energy to the plant.

According to Robert Tait, the town’s finance director, the cost of the panels were roughly  $500,000.  A Grant funded $325,000, and an additional $175,000 came from the sewer fund.  The amount of money that will be saved on electricity costs will pay for the panels within 10 years.

While there is a small set of on the roof of the Reed school roof, and more are being considered for the middle school, Julio Segarra of the Waste Water Treatment Plant said this set is the largest group of panels in Newtown.


Be sure to check back on Monday for a full tour of the Waste Water Treatment Plant. 

Claudia Cooper September 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM
Does that mean those of us who have been paying an extra $600 a year for the sewer treatment plant will get a rebate?
Alex Tytler September 21, 2012 at 12:33 PM
No it means your overall level of taxation is going up because solar is less efficient than the utility. Enjoy!
P Troy September 21, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Sorry, What am I missing.....these breakeven numbers don't seem to add up....If the panels produce134,520 Kilowatts annually and the average cost of a KWH is .0799 that is roughly $10,748 per year (contribution). If $500,000 is the total project cost, divided by the $10,748 that equalls = MUCH MORE THAN 10 YEARS! (46 + actually) or even if you take $175,000 after Grant cost, then divide the $10,748 = STILL NOT 10 YEARS (16 + actually) Whats the real story?
Paul Alexander September 21, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Yes PT Troy, this didn't pass the smell test when I read it. 10 years to break even on $175,000 doesn't seem compelling, IF the pay off is even that fast. Fixed solar panels at 41 degrees North latitude where the sun shines less than 60% of the days doesn't seem compelling. In less than 5 years the panel technology installed here will be archaic and massively inefficient compared to what is on the market at that time. What the? Throw more taxpayer dollars at an upgrade before you recoup the original cost? Is someone in the Finance Directors off going to collect ALL the data for the next 10 years to verify the stated cost savings? I'm not holding my breath. I'm sure this "feels good" though and will look spiffy on the Town's website. If this solar panel project is in fact financially viable in Newtown,CT then you would expect Florida to be littered with solar panels. It's not. I'd love to see the analysis that sold this project. 175 Grand would have paved a decent amount of roadway.
Alex Tytler September 21, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Yes it feels so good, and after all isn't that the real point? Doing things that make financial sense is such a drag, and if you believe in the easter bunny and the Obama miracle, why not solar panels? If money can grow on trees, why not electric power?
Paul Alexander September 21, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Can I still believe in pink unicorns???
Big Family September 21, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Yes it does feel good and I have always thought that Newtown CT. should be on the cutting edge of solar development, I mean we are in the Northeast. Money well spent I say...To be continued.
Big Family September 21, 2012 at 06:04 PM
And Alex, what do you mean "if you believe in the easter bunny", what are you saying?
Alex Tytler September 21, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I'm saying when you do the financial analysis of this project, it doesn't work. It costs more than it produces in savings, IE a loss for Newtown.
Big Family September 21, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I totally agree, I was just being silly like the people who put out these figures.
Janice Rossi September 21, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I wish I could use Mr. Taits math for my mortgage. Are we to assume these panels are maintenance free? Looks like another stupid decision by a town official
Marc Michaud September 22, 2012 at 10:43 AM
I typically refrain from commenting, but this one really takes the cake. After doing some research into home solar electricity, I discovered that even the best quality panels degrade over time from UV damage. By about 7 years they produce power at around 50% and at 10 to 12 years the output is down to a trickle, thus rendering the whole mess a very expensive boondoggle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for alternative energy, it’s just that the technology isn’t there yet, and we’re out of money for this kind of nonsense.
John Munro September 22, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Should help the Chinese economy as most of the panels are made there.
Daniel Patti September 22, 2012 at 12:49 PM
"Silent and beautiful, the solar panels will eventually pay for themselves." Once you take into consideration maintainece, gradual loss of efficiency, and the $325k grant ( aka taxpayer pays the bill ) these solar panels should pay for themselves in about 40 years.
Mr D. September 22, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I did the math for our home and came up with the same 40 year payback period. Even with incentives (which I don't qualify for) it would still be 25 years. However expect costs to keep decreasing. A few years from now the payback will be in the 15-20 years range, which will match the panels' economic life expectancy. That's Moore law at work. In the meantime there are some better energy efficiency investments. My new boiler will pay for itself in 8 years for example.
Paul Alexander September 22, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Solar assisted water heaters are big here in Florida. But solar to generate electricity directly? Nope.
Ray Furse October 03, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Some wrong facts here are making this discussion less than informative. Cost of electricity (demand side) includes delivery charge; it must be valued at avoided costs, probably around .17 per kWh (check with the plant if you want to be more accurate). That puts annual value generated at $22,868, so 21.8 year payback without grant, 14 years with grant, even if the cost of electricity does not go up (and who believes that?). Don't know here the grant came from, if your taxes, go after those politicians, but your City Fathers got you guys a deal, you should say thanks. Mr. Michaud is apparently reading information from the 1970s; today's solar modules have performance warranties; guaranteed 80% performance at 25 years is typical. Our performance warranty is 30 years, but sorry we don't install in Newtown. Best, Ray Furse


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