Grant for new so­lar panel sys­tems

Lans­dale to gen­er­ate its own elec­tric­ity for first time in decades

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil dsokil@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @dan­sokil on Twit­ter

LANS­DALE » The next user and pro­ducer of so­lar elec­tric­ity in Lans­dale Bor­ough could be — Lans­dale Bor­ough.

Bor­ough of­fi­cials an­nounced they have suc­cess­fully been awarded over $700,000 in state grant money to add new so­lar panel sys­tems to two bor­ough fa­cil­i­ties.

“While the ap­pli­ca­tions for so­lar power grant fund­ing are in­cred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive, Lans­dale is pleased and proud to share that we re­ceived $716,039 from the PA Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment for our ef­forts,” said Bor­ough Man­ager John Ernst.

“This will be the first time since the 1960s that Lans­dale Bor­ough has now been back into the gen­er­a­tion of its own en­ergy, and this is the first time that, while we are gen­er­at­ing our own en­ergy, we will be com­pletely green and leave no car­bon foot­print in the way we gen­er­ate en­ergy,” he said.

Lans­dale owned and op­er­ated a coal and oil-pow­ered elec­tric power plant near Third Street and Richard­son Av­enue un­til the late 1960s, ac­cord­ing to Re­porter ar­chives, and since then the bor­ough has pur­chased elec­tric­ity whole­sale, re­selling to cus­tomers while dis­tribut­ing and main­tain­ing the lo­cal net­work. In Fe­bru­ary bor­ough staff an­nounced their in­tent to ap­ply for the grant, seek­ing money from the Com­mon­wealth Fi­nanc­ing Au­thor­ity’s So­lar En­ergy Pro­gram, and coun­cil voted in late Fe­bru­ary to for­mally au­tho­rize the grant ap­pli­ca­tion. The grant funds would be used to in­stall new so­lar pan­els on the roof of the bor­ough mu­nic­i­pal build­ing at 1 Vine St., and a sec­ond sys­tem of so­lar pan­els on space ad­ja­cent to the bor­ough’s waste­water treat­ment plant off Ninth Street.

The two sys­tems com­bined would cost roughly $1.4 mil­lion, mean­ing the bor­ough would match the grant award with roughly the same amount from bor­ough re­serves, and staff have said roughly $100,000 per year could be saved

from lower elec­tric­ity bills, mean­ing a seven year pay­back pe­riod.

“The grant has been awarded. That’s dif­fer­ent from be­ing re­ceived — I don’t want peo­ple to think we have re­ceived this money yet. We don’t get the money un­til af­ter we be­gin to do the project,” Ernst said.

The man­ager gave more de­tails in a post on his newly es­tab­lished blog last week: the two sites were se­lected due to their high use of elec­tric­ity, and part of the grant funds will be used to train bor­ough elec­tric depart­ment line­man and elec­tri­cians to in­stall, op­er­ate and main­tain the sys­tems.

Ac­cord­ing to Ernst and elec­tric Su­per­in­ten­dent Andy Krauss, no firm time­line has been de­vel­oped for the project yet, due to plan­ning still needed with en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tants Rem­ing­ton, Ver­nick and Beach, and fur­ther up­dates on the project will be given through coun­cil’s Elec­tric com­mit­tee. Roughly half a dozen pri­vate so­lar elec­tric­ity sys­tems cur­rently op­er­ate in town, ac­cord­ing to staff, and any­one in­ter­ested in set­ting up their own can con­tact the bor­ough elec­tric depart­ment or look for de­tails on a so­lar en­ergy work­shop ten­ta­tively sched­uled for later this sum­mer.

Cur­rent elec­tric depart­ment em­ploy­ees, and re­cently re­tired line­man John Haw­ley who spent more than 50 years in the depart­ment, are all look­ing for­ward to the new so­lar panel sys­tems, Krauss said.

“We’re very ex­cited to be gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity again,” Krauss said. “We’re not go­ing to be gen­er­at­ing much elec­tric­ity, but it’s a start.”

Lans­dale Bor­ough Coun­cil next meets at 7 p.m. on April 18 and the elec­tric com­mit­tee next meets at 7 p.m. on May 2, both at the bor­ough mu­nic­i­pal build­ing, 1 Vine St.

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