NEW CANAAN — New Canaan could soon join neighboring Wilton and Darien in installing solar panels on town buildings.

Town officials are looking at five potential sites for the solar panels — town hall, the public works garage, the Waveny pool house, the fire station and the nature center animal care building.

New Canaan’s selectmen and finance boards approved last Tuesday $12,000 to hire Mark Robbins, president of MHR Development, a firm that specializes in renewable energy, who will be preparing requests for future bids on the project.

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said the five buildings were a preliminary effort and that future solar energy projects could include the schools in town.

“These are all small systems. The real projects are the schools, but this is a way to get into that process,” Moynihan said.

According to estimates provided by MHR Development during the presentation to the selectmen and finance boards, buying the solar energy equipment would save the town more money in the long term.

If the town were to purchase the solar energy equipment — amounting to a $500,000 investment — the town could save $1.2 million throughout the next 20 years.

On the other hand, if the town were to enter into a power purchase agreement — a third party owns and maintain the system — the town could expect to save $432,201 over the next 20 years.

New Canaan’s southern neighbor, Darien, agreed to enter a 20-year power purchase agreement with Stratford-based Encon earlier this year. They selected town hall, police department and public works garage to recieve solar panels.

Darien is expected to save $624,395 over the next 20 years.

Robbins said he would be exploring both options, but said there would be “more flexibility if you purchase (the equipment).”

Moynihan referenced the solar energy initiatives undertaken in Wilton, where MHR Development installed solar panels on three schools. Moynihan and Robbins toured the town last week.

“You can’t see the panels on the roof. It’s not an issue about aesthetics,” Moynihan said.

Moynihan said he expected a request for proposal to come within the next three weeks, in time for the Board of Finance’s meeting in August.

“It’s very attractive to own (the equipment) because of the long-term benefits,” Moynihan said. “The savings we’re going to have are incredible.”

humberto.juarez@hearst

mediact.com