Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Solar panels bring more green to City of Mercer Island

Derek Rice of Artisan Electric puts the final touches on the new solar array at the MICEC on Friday, July 19. Mayor Bruce Bassett and others will flip the switch on the .5 kW device tomorrow.

As day campers, athletes and city staffers go about their day tomorrow afternoon at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center, it is likely that they will not notice anything different. The lights will still be bright and the water, hot. But instead of the electrical energy powering the building coming from afar, some of it will be supplied by a new solar panel set up just a few yards away from the northeast corner of the building.
On Tuesday, mayor Bruce Bassett, city staff and donors will activate the first city-owned solar array on the Island. The installation was built with grant money from Puget Sound Energy and citizen donations, and will produce approximately 4,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The panels and electrical equipment were made in Washington.
Mercer Island’s success in meeting Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power Challenge, to encourage adoption of renewable energy, led to a $30,000 challenge grant for the solar project. In 2012, a citizen-based Green Ribbon Commission persuaded an additional 250 homes and businesses to sign up, increasing enrollment on the Island by 55 percent. Area residents supportive of solar power donated an additional $5,500 toward the project.
“This installation would not have been possible without the participation of many key members of our community, and I look forward to seeing more clean, green energy sources adopted Islandwide,” said mayor Bruce Bassett. He added, “As a community, we need to take additional steps toward reducing the Island’s carbon footprint.”
The installation will earn credit on the community center’s electric bill, and will generate approximately $2,500 per year in revenue under the Washington State Production Incentive Program.
This income will be invested in additional energy-efficiency measures.
According to Ross Freeman, the city sustainability coordinator, the solar installation is just one component of a much broader city effort to address greenhouse gas impacts of both government operations and local residents.
In 2010, as a part of his senior project, Islander student Harry Bolson spearheaded a solar energy project at Mercer Island High School.
The 1.61 kW solar panel system was installed on the roof of the commons for $8,675.