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Darien May Turn to Solar Power

Darien may soon take a great step forward, as Connie Melvin of the Darien Environmental Group put it, and use sunlight to power Town Hall.

"Any time you can reduce the town's dependence on a non-renewable source, it's a good thing," Melvin said.

The Board of Selectmen recently approved an $80,500 transfer to help pay for solar panels. Most of the cost of the project would be covered by $356,255 in federal stimulus grants and a $29,777 rebate from Connecticut Light & Power. Funds from the town must be set aside before the grant application can be made.

"This would give us something on the generation side,”  said Town Administrator Karl Kilduff. “It was very difficult to say 'no.' " The panels would power Town Hall on sunny days, and at night and on days without much sunlight power would come from the grid.

The transfer needs to be approved by the Board of Finance for Darien to apply for the federal grant. The finance board meets Feb. 16, and Melvin said it's possible in this budget season that the transfer might not be approved. "Everybody's tightening their belts. Things that aren't deemed absolutely necessary tend to get cut."

An analysis conducted for the town said the panels could save upwards of $700,000 over a 20-year period. "It sets a great precedent, and the money saved can be used for tomorrow," Melvin said.

Melvin said she has one son who sells solar cells, and another with a degree in alternative energy. "I haven't heard anything negative about solar panels, both in their production or their disposal," she said. "Electricity in Connecticut is one of the highest in the country and it's not getting any cheaper. Whatever we can do now to hold off the costs, we should do. It's win-win."

What do you think of installing solar panels on Town Hall? Do you think Darien should spend the money now to enjoy savings in the future? Join the conversation in the comments, on Facebook and on Twitter .

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