Published On: Fri, Feb 28th, 2014

Lewisburg is about to get cooler

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A project to provide solar energy to City Hall is underway. Dan Conant came to Lewisburg Rotary on Feb. 24, and presented the details of the fundraising campaign which will hopefully allow the project to go forward without any cost to City Hall. Conant, who represents the nonprofit Solar Holler organization in Harper’s Ferry, also delivered the same presentation at The Spring later that evening as a guest of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

Solar Holler has created programs to make solar affordable for nonprofits and low-income housing projects. Up-front costs of solar create barriers for nonprofits as they are not able to take the tax credits that come with energy efficiency upgrades.

Basically, Conant says, “We package the projects with low interest loans which are paid back over several years by way of energy cost savings and community involvement in the way of the fundraising element.” The fundraising involves a residence or business allowing Mosaic Power to install smart meters onto electric water heaters. The goal for Lewisburg is to have 50 participants with a broadband connection in their home to sign up for the smart meters, and then Mosaic Power will write a check for $100 for each participant with the agreement that the money goes towards the solar project. This total of $5,000 will serve as the down payment for materials and installation of solar panels on City Hall. As of press time, 41 participants have signed up.

The smart meters do not provide any financial reward to the participants, and they will go unnoticed once installed. They are quite small. They simply turn off a hot water heater for a few moments during peak energy use times. This has significant benefits to the energy grid, and that is why Mosaic Power has partnered with Solar Holler to provide the units and the $100 payouts.

In the event more than 50 sign up, the extra money would be set aside for additional local community projects.

Once installed the solar panels would provide about five percent of City Hall’s energy needs. Future additional panels could achieve more energy efficiency. Once all 50 signees are gathered, the project will be voted on by City Council.

One question from the Rotarians about whether or not West Virginia gets enough sunlight to effectively provide solar energy received this answer from Conant. He stated, “Many myths about sustainable energy still circulate in our country. West Virginia is suitable to provide more than 85 percent of the solar energy that Miami, Florida is capable of providing.”

There are a few more participants needed at this time. If interested please visit www.solarholler.org for more information about the project or to sign up. Also visit www.mosaicpower.com for more information about their participation in these community solar projects.