Sunoco car wash goes 'green' in New Milford

The word was "green energy" last week in New Milford as Norbert E. Mitchell Co. presented its Ecopower combined heat and power system.

The system was installed at the Sunoco Car Wash at 134 Danbury Road (Route 7) in January.

Savings in energy costs to heat water for the car wash since the installation have "been in excess of $1,000 monthly," said Matt Mitchell.

"This system brings co-generation down to a local level," Mr. Mitchell said. "Co-generation has been around for large institutions for some time. But this system gives us something we can offer to the community to change the way energy is produced."

The Ecopower system, manufactured by Marathon Engines of Wisconsin, is small in size. Its dimensions -- 54 inches by 30 inches by 43 inches -- are designed to meet the hot water heating needs in commercial businesses or homes of 3,500 square feet or larger, explained Michael Monaghan of Marathon Engines.

The combined heat and power unit generates electricity and produces a steady supply of hot water with the heat created during the electricity generating process, Mr. Monaghan said.

The process runs on natural gas.

"So it's basically both a generator and boiler that sits inside your mechanical room," he added. "It creates 39,000 BTUs an hour of usable heat."

At the Sunoco Car Wash, a 250-gallon buffer tank was installed to supplement the two megastore, 120-gallon water storage tanks already in place.

Excess electricity created is sold back to Connecticut Light & Power through a net meter.

Norbert E. Mitchell Co. is the first distributor of the system in the country. Marathon Engines, which has been in business for 14 years, has been distributing the units for six months.

The unit has tested to be 93 percent efficient in natural gas burning and power generation, Mr. Monaghan said. It won the federal government's 2011 Energy Star Emerging Technology award.

The Ecopower system unit at the Sunoco Car Wash cost $40,000. The Mitchells expect to see payback in five years, said Norbert E. Mitchell III.

"I think this is terrific," said Chris Blocker, New Milford's economic development supervisor."It shows New Milford is a green community."

"I would like to see more companies supporting green technology," he added. "New Milford is ready to support such cutting-edge business practices."; 860-355-7322