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Smithtown considering solar systems for its buildings

Smithtown officials have hired an engineering consulting firm to determine the feasibility of installing solar energy systems on town buildings.

Smithtown town board members voted unanimously, 4-0, to retain services at a maximum cost of $18,000 from Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP to analyze the cost-benefit of installing solar power systems on town buildings and develop a list of conceptual projects.

Councilman Edward Wehrheim was absent for the Mar. 17 vote.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said in an interview, “There’s no doubt in my mind that solar energy is cheaper than electricity. If we can find cheaper electricity than we are currently paying for, that’s something we should do.”

Vecchio said that he directed environmental protection director, Russell Barnett, to review town buildings and determine which would be best suited for solar energy. In a February memo to Vecchio, Barnett said important variables include roof size, roof condition, power consumption of the building, and the existing electrical system in the building.

Vecchio said the town installed solar panels at the municipal services facility in Kings Park about 10 years ago. LED lights are expected to be installed on all town streets by the end of the year, and projected to result in a near total elimination of an electric bill in two years, he said.

“That’s our goal: To be as energy efficient as possible. It’s environmentally sound and it’s a tax-paying savings,” said Vecchio.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy said the town would take a closer look at solar once officials received the feasibility report.

“As long as they look aesthetically pleasing, especially on our buildings on main street, that’s a possibility,” he said. “But solar panels on buildings are pretty ugly.”

McCarthy said there have been improvements to the appearance of solar panels, such as versions that look like roof tiles. “The technology is moving forward tremendously,” he said.

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