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Electric-vehicle charging center fuels enthusiasm at renovated RR depot

Officials celebrate the opening of a new solar-powered electric-vehicle charging center at the Saugatuck Metro-North train station. From left, are: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty, Department of Transporation Commissioner James Redeker, architect John Rountree, Building Official Steve Smith, architect Rick Hoag, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, state Sen. Toni Boucher and state Rep. Gail Lavielle. Monday, April 1, 2013/ Westport, CT. Photo: Paul Schott

Under the rays of an early-spring sun, town and state officials gathered Monday at the Saugatuck Metro-North Railroad Station for a “ribbon-cutting” ceremony to hail the opening of the first solar-powered electric-vehicle charging center on the New Haven line.

The new 27-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the depot’s renovated eastbound stationhouse generate power for four EV charging stations, the stationhouse and the eastbound platform lights. Daily charging sessions cost $5 for a vehicle.

“This is a historic day not only for Westport, but for the state,” First Selectman Gordon Joseloff told a crowd of several dozen. “We are inaugurating not just a renovated stationhouse, but a new era of alternative energy.”

The Stratfo hred business, Encon, installed the solar array last fall. ECI Energy, which has the same owners as Encon, will run and maintain the solar-panel installation and cover its costs. ECI will bill the town for the electricity the solar panels produce, a rate expected to cost 30 percent less than if the town bought that power from a standard power company. No town funds were used for the solar project.

The solar-charging hub is one of the most ambitious alternative-energy projects in Westport’s history. It was conceived about three years ago by Building Official Steve Smith, architect Rick Hoag, architect John Rountree and Leo Cirino, president of the Westport Electric Car Club.

“I feel very fortunate that it finally came to fruition, and it’s hopefully a model for the rest of the state,” Smith said.

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