Grant for new solar panel systems
Lansdale to generate its own electricity for first time in decades
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.