T.B. Scott Free Library “flipped the switch” Thursday
on a new 27.25 kilowatt solar power array expected to provide about 15 percent of the library’s annual electricity usage, according to North Wind Renewable Energy, the project’s installer.
The project includes 79 solar collectors, made in the U.S. and featuring a 25-year warranty. The solar array is located on the south and south-west sides of the roof of the library’s 2001 addition. There will also be a learning kiosk located in the library’s lobby level where the public, in real-time, can track the solar project’s performance and the library’s overall energy usage, providing a valuable educational component.
Library Director Stacy Stevens said the project is a step toward the future for the library and the Merrill community.
“One of the factors that’s utmost in the minds of all of us is providing a community that young people will want to live in and thrive,” she said. “The library board believes that by providing solar at the library and demonstrating that Merrill cares about their environment, this may contribute to all the good things that are going on in Merrill and in some way help recruit and retain young people in our community,” Stevens said.
The library invested some of its own money for the project with an allocation from the T.B. Scott Free Library Endowment Fund. The project also received major financial sponsorship from CM Cares, the foundation of Church Mutual Insurance Company. Additionally, close to $20,000 in solar bonds were purchased toward the project by private individuals in the community.
“With a great deal of support from our sponsors this project was completed entirely with project funds and it carries no debt to the city or the library,” Stevens said.
T.B. Scott Library partnered with Legacy Solar Cooperative of Wisconsin, a statewide organization who provided help with financing mechanisms and technical assistance. One of the services the cooperative provided was issuing the bonds that helped lower the overall cost.
“We lowered it by over 40 percent just by jumping through some hoops,” said Kurt Reinhold of Legacy Solar Coop.
According to Reinhold, the solar array on the library roof will produce 470,000 kilowatt-hours hours of clean energy over the next 25 years.
“That results in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants to the tune of nearly 800,000 pounds,” he said. “It’s clean energy, it’s quiet energy… these are real and useful technologies.”
Based on average solar energy production for our area, the system is projected to generate about 30,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. Additional electricity will still be provided by Wisconsin Public Service. With the combination of the array’s size and site limitations due to the historic aspect of the 1911 Carnegie library building, it is certain that the panels will not generate more energy than the library will use.
The system, which includes an inverter and power optimizers providing three-phase, 208-volt alternating current electricity, is expected to save the library significantly in energy costs over its 30-50 year lifetime.