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Bright idea: Solar panels at RR depot paying off for Westport

Solar panels recently installed on the roof of the Saugatuck Railroad Station are generating revenue, with Westport receiving a quarterly refund of $1,400 on the electricity needed to power the stationhouse, eastbound platform lights and four electric-vehicle charging stations.

In April, Saugatuck became the first solar-powered electric-vehicle charging center on Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven line, and town Building Official Steve Smith said the town is pleased with early results from the program.

“This is all new territory, but we’re actually generating so much electricity that we got a check back from the power company,” Smith said.

The Stratford business, Encon, installed the 27-kilowatt solar array at Saugatuck station last fall. ECI Energy, which has the same owners as Encon, runs and maintains the solar-panel installation and covers its costs. ECI bills the town for the electricity the solar panels produce, a rate that is 35 percent less than if the town bought that electricity from a standard power company, Smith said. No town funds were used for the solar project.

“It’s going better than expected on the power purchasing agreement,” Smith said.

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 Smith, architect Rick Hoag, architect John Rountree and Leo Cirino, president of the Westport Electric Car Club.
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