Shelton Walmart gets OK for solar panels on roof; Will plant a few trees as buffer

Walmart has received permission to put solar energy panels on the roof of its Shelton store.

There would be 1,080 panels on the flat roof, providing from 20% to 40% of the electricity used by the big-box store on an annual basis. About 40% of the roof’s surface would be covered by panels.

To cut down on the visual impact for a few nearby homeowners, two or three evergreen trees will be planted on two properties at the Heritage Pointe residential development off Buddington Road.

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) unanimously approved the solar panel plan at its March 11 meeting. P&Z member Anthony Pogoda, who lives on one of the two Heritage Pointe properties where trees would be planted, abstained from the vote.

Two companies handling project

The Walmart is at 465 Bridgeport Ave. No representatives from Walmart were at the P&Z meeting.

The work will be done by Greenskies and Centerplan Construction, both based in Middletown. The companies, both of which had officials at the meeting, have installed solar panels on other Walmart stores in New England and New York state in the past.

The Walmart solar panels will not generate excess electricity that can be sold to the grid.

‘A geometric design’

Steven DeNino of Greenskies said the panels would be laid out in “a geometric design” that will include 10- to 15-feet-wide snow aisles, where there will be no panels.

DeNino said each panel is 6.5-feet by 3.5-feet in size and weighs about 50 pounds. They are made of a low-glare glass and are “blueish-black” in color.

They will be placed about 15 inches above the roof surface, and mechanically fastened to the roof. The panels will face south.

The solar energy set-up will have a web-based monitoring system, providing updates every 15 minutes or so, and will be regularly maintained, DeNino said.

Snow, wind and glare concerns

When asked about issues with glare, DeNino said some of the same panels were placed near an airport in Meriden and there have been no complaints about glare problems from pilots or airport officials.

Some questions also were asked about the possible impact of snow and wind on the panels on top of the roof.

DeNino said the system has been “fully engineered for wind and snow load.”

He assured the P&Z the panels are “designed to handle the weight” of snow in the winter, and as for wind, similar panels on buildings in New Jersey remained in place during Hurricane Sandy. “We didn’t lose a single panel,” DeNino said.

Visible impact

While the panels should not be visible from the store’s parking lot, it's likely they will be seen from a few properties off Buddington Road that overlook the Walmart store and parking lot.

Company representatives walked Heritage Pointe with P&Z staff, and staff then suggested putting up a few trees as a buffer in one corner of the residential development.

William Herchel of Greenskies raised concerns about the cost of putting in trees, and questioned why they would be needed.

Richard Schultz, P&Z administrator, said trees now in place don’t form an “adequate evergreen buffer.” P&Z members said the new trees are necessary for both aesthetic and glare reasons.

The P&Z approval requires the trees to be planted to “fill gaps” in the current tree buffer at the two impacted Heritage Pointe properties.