BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The city of Bridgeport moved one step closer to going off the grid Wednesday, as city leaders unveiled work on a new generator system that will power City Hall, Police Headquarters, Eisenhower Senior Center and other downtown buildings.
The new ‘microgrid' generator will mean the lights and heat will stay on in the event of strong storms like those that have shut down power in city buildings in recent years, Mayor Joe Ganim said.
“They can create a real issue,” Ganim said of powerful, wind-driven storms. “That won’t happen again. This is a standalone power-generating system.”
The cleaner burning, natural gas generators, which should be up and running by July 2017, are funded in part by a nearly $3 million grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The State Bond Commission is financing the project with $2 million. Bridgeport Microgrid LLC is obtaining construction financing from First Niagara Bank worth $3.5 million and term debt financing from Connecticut Green Bank.
Connecticut Green Bank is contributing an additional $28,000 to help with the cost of converting the existing buildings to be able to fully utilize the benefits of the new microgrid system. The cost of the emergency generator that needed replacing at Police Headquarters with or without the microgrid is included in the funding for the $8 million project.
Workers are building the system just behind City Hall on Lyon Terrace — and close to the police headquarters and the senior center. It will provide both energy and the “vast majority” of heating for City Hall and the Police Headquarters and a significant amount of air conditioning for both buildings, the mayor said.
Matthew Macunas, a marketing manager for Green Bank, said the bank financed the system because it is important for Bridgeport to have a reliable, unabridged source of power. Green Bank also offers low- and moderate-income solar initiatives in the city, which he said has shown a strong interest in sustainability and alternative energy in recent years.
“The Green Bank loves Bridgeport,” he said. “Bridgeport continues to be a standard bearer.”
Acknowledging that former Mayor Bill Finch boosted the city’s environmental focus, Ganim said he’s looking into other green initiatives, including possibly adding solar panels to the roof of the Margaret Morton Government Center on Broad Street.
“This is promising for the city of Bridgeport and we have more to come,” said Joe Gresko, the city’s green/energy coordinator.
Calling the police department’s old generator “just a mess,” Police Chief AJ Perez said he’ll welcome the newer system.
“I am very happy and comforted,” he said.