Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ore Wagon Museum selected as site for solar project

Ketchum Energy Advisory Committee to show alt-energy in action

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum Ore Wagon Museum will be the site of a solar demonstration project. Photo by Roland Lane

    The Ketchum Energy Advisory Committee will install solar panels on the Ketchum Ore Wagon Museum’s roof, after evaluating other city-owned buildings. The project is geared toward showing the community how feasible alternative energy can be on homes and businesses, according to Aimee Christensen, energy advisory chair.
    The Ketchum Energy Advisory Committee was created earlier this year to offer alternative energy solutions for the city going forward. Sprung out of citizens’ concern over the proposed redundant power line in the north valley, the 12-member group meets regularly and hosts Energy Town Halls for the general public.  
    Christensen spoke at a City Council meeting on Oct. 20 about the advisory committee’s ongoing work. She said the Wood River Renewable Energy Group is working with local city officials to create the first 100 percent renewable energy product in the state. She discussed plans for a community solar product that would allow citizens to buy into a solar grid that would both produce local energy and give investors financial returns. While the model for the community solar project is still abstract, the advisory committee’s solar demonstration project is under way.
    With a $25,000 budget coming out of the city’s franchise fee, the city is seeking written quotes for the project from local solar companies, Christensen said. The estimated implementation should occur during the first fiscal quarter of 2015, she said.
    The Ore Wagon Museum was selected for its visibility, low cost-per-watt and good return on investment. Studies done by the advisory committee show that photovoltaic panels on the museum will likely generate more energy than it will use. Christensen said, after the group consulted with Idaho Power, the surplus energy could be used to power Ketchum City Hall, since the properties are “basically contiguous.” The power generated will probably be consumed at City Hall.
    “The power generated from the solar will be ‘net metered’ by Idaho Power against the city’s power consumption and therefore will reduce the city’s power bill paid to Idaho Power,” she said.
    Other city-owned locations considered for the project were the Visitor Center, YMCA parking lot, Atkinson Park and a shade structure in Town Square. Lack of visibility, cost factors and/or difficulties with installation prompted the committee’s decision to choose the Ore Wagon Museum, Christensen said.
    Once the panels are installed, Christensen said, they’ll use metering and online tracking to show the community how efficient and cost-effective solar energy can be.
     “[We will] track its performance to show that it’s saving the city money over time and what the payback is from that investment,” she said.

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