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City moves forward with green energy plans

BRIDGEPORT – Bridgeport is getting greener, little by little. Solar panels and an electric-car charger are coming to the city. A wind turbine may also be in the future.

The City Council recently approved a state-funded project to put solar panels on two Bridgeport schools – Blackham School and Central High School. The solar panels will generate at least 10 percent of the power used by the schools. The project will be bid out in mid-February and the panels will be installed shortly thereafter.

Solar developer Main Street Power originally identified 58 city buildings and 32 school buildings that could have solar panels, but later advised that 18 different schools and nine city buildings could support the panels based on roof age, minimum roof area and orientation. The city will not pursue funding to put panels on other schools until it sees the results from Blackham and Central High.

After getting approval from the City Council Tuesday night, the city will also be installing an electric-car charger at City Hall. The city originally planned to install five chargers throughout Bridgeport, but planners realized four of those five sites were not public property, utilities manager John Cottell said. United Illuminating will pay for the electricity used at the charger. UI will monitor use of the charger and use the data it collects to plan future charging infrastructure.

UI is also still exploring building a five-megawatt solar array on top of a closed landfill at Seaside Park. The project would ultimately have to be approved by the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Over the next few months, UI will study the feasibility and capability of the site. The site could hold more than 5 megawatts of solar, Grabarz said, and the city may seek a second developer to use space in the landfill leftover from the UI array.

Ted Grabarz, sustainability director for the city, said they are also looking at alternative energy sources for Pleasure Beach.

“We’re also looking at solar panels and wind turbines at Pleasure Beach,” Grabarz said. The Pleasure Beach project is preliminary since work to date indicates significant hurdles for any renewable development there, according to UI’s filings with PURA.

Meanwhile, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded energy projects at the Bridgeport Public Library are reaching completion. A new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system was installed in the building. Contractors are also installing a $700,000 white roof to deflect heat and save on energy costs. City officials are also considering installing a blue roof, one that would retain rain water. City officials are still exploring whether the blue roof would be economically feasible.