Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to bring you interesting cleantech news, is proud to repost this article via permission from the U.S. Department of Energy. Author credit goes to Julie McAlpin.
In a hamlet on the Hudson River in upstate New York, two newly installed photovoltaic arrays at the local library are generating electricity, interest in renewable energy, and community pride.
Recognizing its role as an educator and community leader, the Esopus Library used a $96,790 award from the Recovery Act to install the 22.5kW roof-mounted and 5.5kW ground-mounted photovoltaic systems.
“We’re hoping to be a place to come to learn about renewable energy,” said Library Director Kelly Tomaseski. “We think that people will be more likely to invest in a similar project if they can see it in practice.”
These sentiments are shared by Adam Rizzo, president of Solar Liberty, the project installation firm. “Community centers, nonprofit buildings, and schools are especially important for promoting solar energy. Seeing is believing.”
The new solar system is expected to generate approximately 31,200 kWh of electricity annually — approximately 30 percent of the library’s electricity use and a savings of $4,000 in energy costs each year.
The ninety-six 230-watt Sharp photovoltaic panels, made in Memphis, Tennessee, along with the PVPowered 30 kW inverter and rooftop DPW Solar Mounting System were installed by a crew of eight electricians over a period of three days.
The town of Esopus is no stranger to transitioning towards a lower carbon footprint, and partnering with NYSERDA. The Esopus Town Hall hosts a 77.22 kW ground mounted photovoltaic system, a project that received a $194,440 New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) incentive, and helped to inspire the library to follow suit.
Luckily, Recovery Act funds became available at precisely the right moment. “The library was originally built in such a way that solar panels could one day be installed,” says Ms. Tomaseski. “We paid careful attention to the solar installation market, and we were ready when the [Recovery Act] opportunity came along.”
More good fortune would soon follow. After completing the 22.5kW roof system, the city still had funds to spare. In turn, the library worked with NYSERDA to modify the project contract and spend the remaining money to add the 5.5kW ground system. The unexpected second array will deliver approximately 120 percent of the electricity that the grant was based on, while still staying within the original cost.
According to Rizzo, the additional ground mount wouldn’t have happened if Solar Liberty hadn’t used the economies of scale of other installations to lower the project costs. “Competitive budgeting doesn’t end when stimulus funds are received,” he says. “It’s about being flexible and creating the best project possible right to the end.”
Following the move to its new location, library patronage tripled. With programs becoming much fuller, “We plan to use some of the energy cost savings towards expanding library offerings,” says Ms. Tomaseski.
To follow project progress visit the Town of Esopus Library online and keep current with the Library’s BookMark Newsletter.