Friday, March 16, 2012

Solar Savings: Saginaw City Council Approves Plan to Install $130,000 Solar Panel Plant on City Building

Saginaw City Council Monday agreed to pursue a $130,000 solar plant to be installed on the roof of the city’s Public Services building at 1435 S. Washington.
Workers from J. Ranck Electric Inc., of Mt. Pleasant install
solar panels on the south wall of Wendler Arena at
The Dow Event Center, 303 Johnson in Saginaw

Consumers Energy selected Saginaw and two other entities — a municipal entity in Jackson and a commercial business in Kent County — to participate in phase three of its Experimental Advanced Renewable Program.

The program ensures participants that Consumers Energy will purchase the energy created by their alternative energy systems, in Saginaw’s case, for up to 15 years, Saginaw Public Services Director Phillip Karwat said.

Karwats said the plan includes installation of 96 4-foot by 10-foot solar panels on the building’s roof, which he projects could be completed by June.

The$130,000 price tag is expected to be covered up front by a $35,000 Department of Energy grant the city has access to a $95,000 energy loan through Saginaw Future.

Karwat said a plan needs to be presented to the Department of Energy Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program administration for approval of the grant funds and City Council must approve the Saginaw Future loan, which he expects to happen in about a month.
PhillipKarwat.pngView full sizePhillip Karwat

“As long as we don’t have to pay cash money for it,” I support it, Mayor Greg Branch said after the City Council voted 8-0 – Councilman Norman Braddock was absent from the meeting-- to move forward with the plan. “As we look at the future we have to look at alternative energy.”

Based on the Consumers Energy agreement to pay 22.9 cents per kilowatt hour, about 2.5 times what the city pays for its own energy, the solar plant should raise about $6,150 each year, which can then be used to pay off the Saginaw Future loan over a 15-year period.

“If the city had to pay for this thing… at the rate at which we can create energy… we’re talking well over 30 to 50 years of payback,” Karwat said. “It wouldn’t be a project you would want to do.”

After 15 years, the city plans to use the power produced by the solar plant to offset what it is currently purchasing from Consumers Energy. The energy produced by the solar system is expected to equal up to 10 percent of the building’s total current energy use, Karwat said.

“The next 10 to 15 years are going to be pretty intense as far as (green energy) opportunity,” Councilman Amos O’Neal said. “I think this is a pretty good pilot for us. I’m excited to hear this.”

A small number of the panels, based on the plan, will be attached to a “tracking system” that will aim them in the most efficient direction to collect solar energy, increasing efficiency between 30 and 50 percent.

Karwat said there’s not enough room to use the tracking system for all of the panels.

“In the long-run, if we can be a front-runner in renewable energy, when these grants become available… it will make us more competitive,” Karwat said.


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