Connecticut commuter station goes solar

The City of Westport, Conn. is preparing to install a roof full of solar photovoltaic panels on the shelter at its Saugatuk commuter train station.

The city just needs approval from the Connecticut Board of Transportation, which meets Thursday.

“The feedback has been pretty positive,” said Westport city planner Steve Smith. “So, we feel pretty optimistic.”

Once the project is approved, the city will receive $109,000 from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund to pay for $97,000 worth of solar panels and two electric-vehicle charging stations.

“This started two years ago,” Smith said. “We were looking for projects where we could use Federal stimulus money.”

Stimulus funding guidelines changed, but Smith was already smitten with the idea of installing solar at the train station and promoting electric vehicle adoption with premier parking and onsite charging stations.

So, the city approached the Clean Energy Fund.

“They loved it,” Smith said.

From there, the city set out to plan the system and get the ball rolling. There have been a lot of governing bodies to consult and a few hoops to jump through. The project was approved by the Westport Board of Selectman last week.

The solar panels planned for the roof of the train station will produce enough energy to power 20 electric-vehicle charging stations, Smith said.

“We just wanted to cover the roof with panels,” Smith said. “There wasn’t anything scientific about it.”

The city will start with just two charging stations and will feed the remainder of the electricity the system produces into the grid. Smith said Westport will likely phase in more charging stations over time.

Right now there is just one electric vehicle that parks in the lots with more than 1,000 other commuter vehicles.

One incentive for going electric will be premier parking, Smith said.

The city is partnering with Chevrolet and Mitsubishi to promote electric vehicle adoption, he said.

“This is pretty cool,” Smith said. “We’re anxious to get started.”