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The Fitchburg Common Council unanimously approved plans to invest in 362 kW of solar electric panels that will harness energy from the sun to power four municipal buildings. The West Fire Station, City Hall, Public Works Maintenance Facility garage, and LEED Gold-certified Library will host more than 1000 solar panels by the end of 2017 and generate about 452,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.
“With the drop in solar prices, it became clear that this is an incredible investment. We could see early on that the project would bring dramatic energy and cost savings for years to come. At the same time, we’re also committed to clean energy because it’s good for the planet, people’s health, and our local economy,” says Fitchburg Mayor Jason Gonzalez.
The 362 kW of solar electric will replace about 10 percent of the City’s total electricity usage, helping the City meet its pledges to generate 25 percent of its energy with renewable sources by 2025 and to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to environmental and public health benefits of renewable energy, the project will also significantly lower the City’s electricity costs over the 40-year lifespan of the panels. Projected cost savings will be $54,000 in year one alone, and by year 40 will top $3 million.
The $580,000 project has an estimated payback time of about 9 years, and the city was awarded two grants totaling $50,617 to offset project costs. Arch Electric and Convergence Energy, both based in Wisconsin, will install the solar panels.
“Fitchburg is committed to clean, renewable sources of energy for the long term, and we will continue to expand our renewable energy capacity as opportunities arise. There’s a strong business case to continue investing in renewables, and it’s a win-win as the stewards of our environment and of our taxpayer dollars. This solar initiative also establishes Fitchburg as a leader among cities in Dane County working hard to combat climate change,” says Gonzalez.
The 2017 solar project will add to the City’s current 22.2 kW of solar photovoltaics (12.3 kW on City Hall roof and 9.9 kW of ground-mounted panels at the Public Works Maintenance Facility), increasing production by an order of magnitude. The City’s remaining renewable energy sources include: geothermal heating and cooling systems at the Library and West Fire Station and solar thermal panels that heat hot water at City Hall and the West Fire Station.
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