District officials Tuesday climbed atop the flat roof at Carmen Arace School to check out an investment that they expect will save Bloomfield taxpayers at least $1.1 million over the next 25 years.
They were looking at a recently completed solar project on the school's 170,000-square-foot roof. The 2,926 solar panels are expected to save at least $40,000 a year in electricity costs at Carmen Arace, which has cost the district about $250,000 a year, according to Wayne Casper, director of facilities for Bloomfield Public Schools.
The panels and the installation did not cost the district any money.
Casper suggested that the district look into solar energy about two years ago after returning from a trade show.
"It took a lot of discussion. You're talking about a big-time commitment," said Casper, referring to the 25-year lease it has with Connecticut Green Bank, which was established by the General Assembly in 2011 to finance clean energy projects by leveraging public and private funds.
Kingspan Energy, which won the bid for the project, completed installation in about nine weeks and worked around the school's bus and exam schedule as it was doing preliminary work before summer vacation.
"It's probably one of the smoothest projects I've worked on," said Casper, who has been with the district for 14 years.
William Guzman, chief operations officer for the district, said Bloomfield schools have locked in the price they will pay for electricity for the next 25 years and that the only downside officials see is if better technology comes along that would allow them to save even more before the lease ends.
Officials have considered another project on the roof of Bloomfield High School but decided against it. They are now considering a solar project on the central office property on Blue Hills Avenue, but don't expect to move forward immediately.
The solar project has not been made a part of the school's science, technology, engineering and math curriculum yet, but students do pass a monitor in the main entry that tracks how much electricity is being saved.
"This will be a great way to incorporate it," said Superintendent James Thompson.
Gavin Blower, general manager for Kingspan Energy, said his company has done solar projects with about 20 schools in the state and that they make sense, especially since there is no cost to taxpayers and school districts.
"They're putting the roof to work," Blower said. "The roof is powering the classroom."