Celebrating Solar in Newtown

As seen in The Newtown Bee on Friday July 12, 2013

By Kendra Bobowick

On a muggy July morning with just enough breeze to topple his posters of a solar panel installation, Henry Cheung of Sound Solar Systems LLC worked to reset his display.

Reaching to help, Altus Power Management Managing Partner Tom Athan propped up one poster then, looking at a photo on it, he said, “I installed those,” indicating several rows of solar panels on the Newtown Middle School’s roof. His company funded a $600,000 solar project now in place at the school and generating roughly 30 percent of the building’s energy needs. The project was at no cost to the town. During a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning, July 11, celebrating the clean energy effort, First Selectman Pat Llodra held the jumbo ceremonial scissors and sliced through a ribbon celebrating Newtown’s second solar project, the first being at the water treatment plant.

Altus Power, along with Sound Solar Systems, which supplies sustainable energy, members of the town’s Sustainable Energy Commission, town department heads and officials, a state economic director, and others in past months formed a public and private sector collaboration to make the solar project possible. Public Works Director Fred Hurley and Sustainable Energy Commission members, Chairman Kathleen Quinn, Desiree Galassi, and Dan Holmes, who all played roles in promoting the project, joined Thursday mornings’ event.

Standing before a banner that read: “This building is powered by the sun,” Kira Savino of Solar Sound Systems LLC said, “It has taken a lot of people to make this happen. Company president Tony Savino said, “This is a perfect example of citizens, the state and town, and private industry,” working to accomplish a goal. “This starts with the citizens trying to solve a problem.”

Mr Athan spoke next, saying, “These are the good days when the solar is working for the people and schools.” The $600,000 project costs, raised through investors. Mr Athan’s company is just a few years old. With a background on Wall Street and watching investments there, he came up with the idea of garnering support for solar systems. State Economic Development Director Robert Michalik Jr. said, “The town is poised to save dollars, but this is also a green project and educational — it’s located at a school and conveys to students the importance of [sustainable energy] and stewardship.

Mrs Llodra believes that with two solar installations in place, “We are leaders of this type of project.” She would like the town to begin looking for sites for solar energy farms. She also stressed the importance of education. “Part of our responsibility is to influence the decision making of our youth — the leadership of our future.”

Hoping for more sustainable efforts in town, she looked to the Sustainable Energy Commission members: “You are the start of all this.” She said the commission members “keep us focused on projects to benefit us in the future.” The Newtown Middle School solar project was installed earlier this year.

Ms Quinn later noted that her commission “keeps promoting” green ideas for the town and private residents. She urges people to review information available at SolarizeCt.com. Learn of ways to benefit from solar initiatives at home.

For complete story, please visit http://newtownbee.com/news/0001/11/30/celebrating-solar-newtown/149217.