TROY — Platform shoes and disco were hot in the '70s, but the Troy- Miami County Library was heating up with solar panels.
In August 1974, the Troy-Miami County Library — located at 419 W. Main St. — applied for federal funds to make their building the first solar heated building in the area. This would save the library approximately $3,000 in heat bills, according to a study conducted by the University of Dayton, according to past stories by the Troy Daily News.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a solar panel is a photovoltaic device that produces a specified power output under defined test conditions, usually composed of groups of solar cells connected in series, in parallel, or in series-parallel combinations.
Two years later, the library received a grant from the Energy and Research Development Administration for $297,000 to fund the solar panel project, the Troy Daily News reported. The solar collectors were installed by Owens-Illinois. Each one of the glass collectors was filled with water and brought the total weight of the tube to 6.7 pounds.
According to research, the sun's rays would penetrate the glass and warm the water in the tube. This brings the water to 180 degrees, but the heat doesn't escape because of vacuum insulation designed to hold the heat in. The energy is then used to heat the library.
Solar technology wasn't considered new then because people concentrated the sun's heat with glass and mirrors to light fires centuries ago. It may not have been solar panels, but the idea was there — use the energy from the sun. Today, we have everything from solar-powered buildings and homes to solar-powered vehicles.
In 1978, the library earned an “Award of Merit” for the Library Buildings Award Program, according to the newspaper. This award was jointly sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association.
As with almost any project glitches and bugs had to be worked out. The weight of ice and snow from the past winter cracked one of the trusses, which had to be replaced at the cost of $30,000. The roof that held the solar panels had to be redesigned to protect against further damage in the winter months.
The next step was to add 5 1/2 inches of pitch to the roof to eliminate the recurrence of standing snow and water. A small problem was the accumulation of dirt in the collector system that had to be cleaned out so the panels could work at full capacity.
In 1984, the sun set on the solar heating system at the Troy-Miami County Public Library. The library board of trustees voted to abandon the solar panels in favor a of a gas boiler, according to Troy Daily News reports. The system had technical problems throughout its use. The biggest problem for the panels came in the winter months, because the glass tubes would freeze, which caused the tubes to shatter and be replaced. The high cost of the repairs was too much for the library to afford.
The first free public library in Troy was organized in 1896 by members of the Alturian Club. City council set aside a room in the city building for library use. Soon the collection grew to occupy the entire first floor of the building.
In 1942, the late Mary Jane Hayner bequeathed her home for educational use, and the library moved there in 1943. As the collection size grew and the circulation increased, the library began to outgrow the stately Hayner Mansion.
Ground breaking for a new library building began Nov. 27, 1974. Materials were moved into the new library on Feb. 14, 1976, with dedication of the building taking place on May 15. The Troy-Miami County Public Library now serves an area of 42,000 Ohio residents. In addition to books and magazines, the library provides DVDs, audiobooks and even art prints. Public computers are available with Internet access and wireless access to the Internet is available for those with laptops.
The Troy-Miami County Public Library solar panel project might have been short lived, but the city of Troy was ahead of its time once again.