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Marietta unveils solar panels at muni court building

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times On the roof of the Marietta Municipal Court building sit 216 solar panels supplying 40 percent of the building's electricity needs.

Across the world this weekend, events will be held in support of environmental protection.

Just ahead of those celebrations, Thursday saw an ode to Earth Day with a ribbon cutting for solar panels on the roof of the Marietta Municipal Court building that were installed over the winter.

“This is a project that could easily fly under the radar of the public because it’s out of sight but I think it’s a significant step in moving the city forward on renewable energy,” explained City Engineer Joe Tucker. “The federal government has established that 30 percent of electricity consumed by the government should be produced by renewable energy and the (Ohio) state goal is 12.5 percent by 2027. Knowing both the federal and state goals, this is a significant first step for the city and hopefully, the city can set a goal in the future as well.”

The city partnered with Pickering Energy Solutions to provide the renewable energy resource to the building, which sees heavy local traffic Monday through Friday each week.

Tucker explained that the installation was at no cost to the city’s coffers. And it will now provide approximately $1,200 in savings on city utility bills over the course of a year.

“Pickering is selling us the electricity we use from the panels at a contracted 10 percent lower rate than what we pay American Electric Power,” he explained. “If we can gradually achieve the federal goal of renewable energy use as a city, then we can not only reduce our carbon footprint but also save money at the same time.”

He said 40 percent of the energy used by the building is provided by the panels.

“In big cities across the world, even in Columbus, there are huge strides being made for green energy, reducing our carbon footprint. I’m afraid that here in Southeast Ohio and West Virginia we’re going to be left behind,” said Chip Pickering, founder of Pickering Energy Solutions. “So it’s wonderful to have an individual, an engineering team led by Joe, to come on board with the vision we have.”

On the roof of the court sit 216 panels that feed into two power inverters which then feed into the building’s power.

“What’s great is that throughout this whole process no penetration of the roof’s membrane was made,” said Tucker. “And we not only had it certified to be leak-free before installation but then again after installation the manufacturer took our public facilities foreman up and walked him through the inspection process and checklist so that our guys can do further inspections twice a year in-house. Plus having him here extended our warranty on that roof another year.”

The building draws from this power first before taking remaining needs from the electricity grid that is billed by AEP.

“How it works is that there is a two-way meter and since the panels are continuously producing electricity when, say, on a Saturday instead of the building taking electric off the grid, instead the building will actually put new electric back on the grid,” explained Dave Hendrickson, city project manager.

The city would then be credited for the excess pushed back out onto the grid on its power bill.

“I think that this is a wonderful partnership that’s been developed,” said Councilwoman Cindy Oxender. “It will not only be an encouragement of sustainable energy but will also be saving the city on the electric bill for this building.”

Pickering said this is not the only public-private partnership he has worked on to bring renewable energy to the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“The City of Parkersburg’s recycling center, Wood County Schools – where you can make a connection with the students so it not only offsets the energy cost but it’s also a learning experience – we partner with people that have an appropriate roof and then we turn around and offset some of that energy and then we talk about the environmental effects of that,” he explained.

The environmental effect of the court building, Tucker explained, is the equivalent to planting 88 acres of trees.

“That’s how many trees it would take to avoid the same amount of carbon emissions by using solar power instead of power produced by other means,” Tucker said of the 107 tons of carbon emissions avoided in a year by the building’s new panels.

Pickering also mentioned upcoming projects in Williamstown, at Parkersburg South High School, Hall Financial, Washington State Community College and other schools in West Virginia. He stressed the importance of education both on why one should consider environmentally friendly energy, and also how economically feasible it is.

“But we can’t just let people go up and walk on our court roof,” added Tucker. “So these placards we mounted instead give a nice view of the installation, what the systems are and some facts and then you can go online and see the daily output coming from the panels.”

“You can even see the drop when the cloud is overhead, it’s live,” added Pickering.

Specifics of the system can be found at http://bit.ly/PickeringMariettaCourt and one can monitor the power on the roof live at http://bit.ly/MariettaCourtSolarLive.

This ribbon-cutting ceremony was in preface to other Earth Day celebrations coming this weekend.

Saturday on the Armory lawn from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. contests and activities to celebrate environmental protection will be available for the whole family to enjoy.

At a glance

≤ Marietta city officials unveiled the new solar panels on the roof of the Marietta Municipal Court building Thursday.

≤ The 216 panels provide approximately 40 percent of the building’s power.

≤ Those panels provide enough electricity to power 9.3 homes in a year.

≤ The renewable energy source avoids 107 tons of carbon emissions per year which is equivalent to planting 88 acres of trees.

≤ The installation of the panels included a recertification of the roof as leak-free and extended the roof’s warranty by a year.

≤ An infographic detailing the environmental savings of the panels was mounted inside the court’s first-floor lobby for the public to learn more.

≤ Specifics of the system can be found at http://bit.ly/PickeringMariettaCourt.

≤ Monitor the power on the roof live at http://bit.ly/MariettaCourtSolarLive.

Source: Marietta City Administration and Pickering Energy Solutions.

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