Emerald Mountain Energy co-owner Tim McCarthy talks Wednesday about the new solar panels installed earlier this month on the roof of Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Emerald Mountain Energy co-owner Tim McCarthy talks Wednesday about the new solar panels installed earlier this month on the roof of Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Library installs rooftop solar panel system

State grants covered $78K of library's total $82K cost of system

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— Some excited electrons have taken up residency on the roof of the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

As part of a bid to earn a silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program, library officials had an 11-kilowatt solar-electric system installed June 30. The system, which includes 48 panels in two rows on the library's roof, is offsetting about 4 percent of the electricity used in the 36,000-square-foot, air-conditioned facility.

"It's working a little bit better than we expected it would," said Tim McCarthy, of Emerald Mountain Energy, which installed the system. McCarthy explained that electrons in the panels are excited by the sun's energy, and they create a current by moving from one side of the panel to the other.

To meet its LEED standard, the system needs to supply 2.5 percent of the library's electricity needs.

"We are very exited to be able to be a green leader in our community," library Director Chris Painter said.

Officials with the city of Steamboat Springs participated in a tour of the solar panel system last week.

"We're doing a multi-jurisdictional grant for some federal and state funding to do something like this on the (Steamboat Springs) Community Center," Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said.

Painter said the city and Routt County were integral in securing funding for the library's solar system by helping it with a grant application. The system cost $82,000, and state grants covered $78,000 of that.

There also is a solar system on the roof of the Routt County Justice Center, built in 2007.

Since it was installed Jan. 13, 2008, the 26.4-kilowatt solar system on the Justice Center roof has generated about 58,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and offset about 72,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. That's equivalent to the amount of energy needed to power 933 homes for one year and the amount of pollution the average passenger car emits during more than seven years.

The library roof includes racks and the accompanying infrastructure to accommodate two more rows of solar panels if it is decided to install them in the future. McCarthy said he always recommends that customers install the infrastructure upfront, even if they don't intend to install solar, in case prices come down in the future and they become interested. Retrofitting a building for solar power is far more expensive, he said.

"We obviously have made accommodations for the future," said Project Manager Paul Barry, of Barry Construction Management. "If another round of grant funding came around, we would be very interested."

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