Morgan’s courthouse goes solar
Workers from Morgan County’s own renewable energy company, Mountain View Solar & Wind, are installing a large solar panel system on the roof of the county courthouse this week.
The array consists of 108 solar panels and will provide 25 kilowatts, enough to power 2 1/2 average homes. It will generate 29,000 kilowatt hours per year and offset roughly 20 tons of carbon, Mountain View said in a press release.
“This will be the first municipal solar project in West Virginia and the largest solar system installed to date in the state,” Mountain View owner Mike McKecknie said Monday.
“It is very exciting,” Morgan County Administrator Jody McClintock said.
Special frames for roof
The solar panels are being mounted in special stainless steel frames to prevent damage to the courthouse roof.
Instead of screwing the frames into the roof, which could cause leaks and damage over time, the frames are placed on rubber pads and held down with concrete ballast blocks. The frames have trays to hold the blocks.
Mountain View Solar Engineer Clay Herzog said each frame is held down by 90 - 120 lbs. of blocks depending on where in the array the frame is located. End units, which are more exposed to the wind, get more weight. The entire array is bolted together and mechanically forms one large unit.
Made in the USA
County Grant Assistant Carol York told The Morgan Messenger funding for the project was provided by a $196,660 Energy Efficiency Conservation Block grant from the West Virginia Department of Energy.
The money originally came from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“That means all the materials have to be made in America,” McKechnie said.
The solar panels themselves are made by Solar World in Oregon and California. McKechnie said the panels have a 25 year manufacturer’s production warranty and a service life up to 45 years or more.
On Monday, a crane from Digging and Rigging of Clarksburg, Maryland lifted palettes of solar panels, frames, electrical inverters, concrete blocks and padding material onto the courthouse roof. Mountain View installers started laying out the frames for the panels.
Tuesday the solar panels were being installed. Once installed, the panels have to be connected to inverters to covert the DC (direct current) output of the panels to AC (alternating current). The system will then be wired to the courthouse electrical system.
A computer monitor will be installed in the courthouse lobby to display in real time the system’s kilowatt production. In addition, the monitor will display the total number of kilowatts generated since system startup and the carbon offset saved in tons.
Benefits to county
McKechnie said the system will provide two benefits to county residents:
“First, a reduction in the courthouse’s energy bill means a reduction in the amount of tax money that goes toward paying it. Second, the courthouse will actually be receiving a monthly income through Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), which can be used for a general fund or for specific purposes.”
Mountain View estimates the county will save $10,000 - $12,000 a year, every year, both from savings on the electric bill and income from SRECs.
“And that number will go up each year as utility costs increase,” McKechnie said.
Colin Williams of Mountain View calculated that over 180 kilowatts of solar power have been installed in Morgan County by the company. “That amounts to 750 residential solar panels,” he said.
“There is more solar installed per capita in this county than anywhere in the state,” McKechnie added.
“Solar panels are a great way to help the environment and this project will certainly benefit Morgan County by decreasing future expenses on electricity.
“I was thrilled that a local business won this bid, and with no required matching funds, I consider this project a win – win for our county,” Morgan County Commission President Stacy Dugan said.