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Sunday, August 18 Business

Bridgeport’s Wade’s Dairy unveils completed solar panel project

It may have taken longer expected, but Wade’s Dairy is closing in on the sustainability that its owner envisioned years ago.

Wade’s Dairy installed roughly 400 solar panels on top of its facility, which, now, accounts for roughly 40 percent of the business’s operation needs. The project has been in the works for years since the Bridgeport-based purveyor set out to expand its footprint in the Park City in 2015.

“It’s not a make-or-break project for the family business, but it makes us feel good about who we are,” said Doug Wade, who runs the fourth-generation family dairy along Barnum Avenue which recently celebrated the completion of its 196-kilowatt solar energy project.

While the expansion happened, Wade said the solar energy project hit a few setbacks, including a fallout with the previous contractor. The contractor, which Wade declined to name, had installed panels on the equipment warehouse, the main office building and the new refrigerated warehouse, but left before installing the remaining units on the company’s truck bay.

The remainder of the project was taken over roughly a year ago by Branford-based Eco Solar Installation LLC.

“It cost me about $250,000 more than the original project and I’m getting less kilowatt out of it, but we were able to get it completed,” Wade said.

The project had initially received $612,000 through the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, program from Connecticut’s Green Bank. The C-PACE program pays upfront costs for solar installation that are repaid over a 20-year period.

The company has also added roughly 42 new employees since the start of the project in 2015, according to Wade. The increased workforce was part of a commitment to the state Department of Economic and Community Development which funded almost $1 million of the expansion with Newtown Saving Bank.

Wade had to add more than 40 workers in order to have $200,000 of the DECD loan forgiven.

Bridgeport and state officials commended Wade’s Dairy for its pursuit of sustainable energy and growth in the city.

“It just continues the trend and the goal for the City of Bridgeport,” said state Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford who also serves as Bridgeport’s director of sustainability.

“Sustainable energy is our future and the city of Bridgeport wants to be a player in all of that,” Gresko added.

While the solar panel setup is the company’s introduction to the clean energy market, Wade said he is already looking to continue making a his family’s business a green company.

He said he wants to add another batch of panels on a new truck port that he hopes will one day accommodate Tesla tractor trailers.

“We’re looking for the day when the Tesla trucks are going to be running, and we’re going to have a huge electrical draw,” Wade said. “We expect we will need another two tractors in coming years, and if Teslas are available, I want to go Tesla.”

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jordan.grice@hearstmediact.com

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