Monday, May 13, 2013

Burlington solar project offers power, publicity

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — 
A familiar landmark on Burlington's riverfront soon will draw its power from the sun.
The Hawk Eye reports (http://bit.ly/193Q8a8 ) the city's renewable energy and conservation advisory committee has a plan to install solar panels on the Port of Burlington, a $9,487 project that could move forward as soon as next month.
"We're basically trying to find some ways to put energy efficiency and renewable energy into the public eye," said committee chairman Jerry Parks.
The committee receives about $5,000 a year from the city to pursue various projects. It plans to pay for 10 solar panels with $5,000 of its own funds, $1,837 in rebates and $2,650 from an Alliant Energy Bright Ideas grant, which will pay for a display monitor that will be installed inside the port.
The 3-by-5-foot, 240-watt panels will be installed on the west side of the port's roof to produce power, which will be patched into the general electrical grid.
"If the building is using energy, the solar panels would help supply it, and if there was a low demand from the building, the remainder would be measured and applied against the electric bill," states the city's resolution, which the council passed Monday.
Parks said the committee considered a variety of energy-efficient strategies before settling on solar panels. Other ideas included installing light tubes in city buildings, a renewable energy informational kiosk at the welcome center and a wind turbine demonstration along the riverfront.
"After all the discussion, we finally thought that solar panels on the port building on the west side would be a very high-visibility location, and lots of people would see it and get familiar with it," he said.
The emphasis of the project is educating the public about how solar energy works.
Parks said the port wasn't the city's only option.
"We did talk about a lot of different places," he said. "For city hall, it might provide power up there but be invisible. And we definitely want to have people be able to see it going on."
The average American household uses 11,280 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, or 940 kilowatt hours per month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Depending on the season and the amount of daylight available, a 240-watt solar panel can generate electricity at a rate of about 216 kilowatt hours a year, according to a website run by the United Kingdom-based company Midsummer Energy.
In the Burlington plan, with 10 solar panels, that's about 2,160 kilowatt hours a year. The output will fluctuate daily, depending on the weather and other factors.
Parks hopes the project will begin in June.
Among other projects Parks said the committee is considering includes installing energy-efficient insulation in the next local Habitat for Humanity home. Another proposed future project involves charging stations for electric cars.
"The committee advertised to businesses that are members of the chamber, that we would give a rebate of $1,000 and up to 50 percent of the cost of installing a charging station at any business in town," Parks said, adding the offer would be limited to the first five applicants.
Little progress has been made on the committee's pet project, a proposed hydroelectric power plant on Lock & Dam 18, he said.
The $86 million project calls for the installation of 24 "very low head" turbines along the lock and dam. Energy output generated by the plant would be enough to power 7,100 homes, according Klingner & Associates.
  • Canada-based company Coastal Hydropower Corp. has offered to pay for the project, although Parks' committee still is waiting to hear whether Burlington has hydropower in its future.