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Collier DPW building running on solar power

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

The ceremonial flipping of the switch for Collier's new solar-paneled public works building took place last week, but the panels have been harvesting energy for nearly 10 months.

Designed by Scalo Solar Solutions, the system is photo voltaic, meaning it runs on light rather than heat — so grey Pennsylvania days won't have an effect on the amount of energy harnessed.

“As long as the sun comes up in the morning — which is a good bet — this is going to generate power,” said Jack Scalo, of Scalo Solar Solutions, which designed and implemented the system.

The solar panels have been powering the building since December, but the final project was celebrated with a Flip the Switch ceremony Sept. 25 outside the public works building.

“Collier wanted to be more sustainable as a township and take ownership of their future,” said TJ Willets, director of marketing at Scalo. “That's how we come into play.”

Scalo Solar Solutions invested in Collier by installing the solar panels on the roof of the public works building.

It is a power purchase agreement — Collier uses the power harnessed by the panels, and Scalo Solar Solutions charges the township a reduced rate for kilowatt hour used.

Willetts said the system is five or six times larger than one that would be used on a house.

“When we did the studies on this, we found that it would offset the entire amount of energy used by that entire public works building — it's estimated to produce more than that building will consume,” he said.

He said the system works like a two-way electric meter. The building still will get some power from the electric company. On days when it is harnessing more solar power than it is using, it will push energy back into the grid.

“Instead of just accepting power, it will actually push power back. It will send energy,” Willetts said. “And that will deduct from the electric bill.”

The system, which is estimated to reduce carbon dioxide gas emissions by more than 1 million pounds, was more than a year in the making.

“The end of 2011 is when discussions really started,” Willetts said. “We finished up at the end of 2012 and put in into operation then. It's been about nine months of it being fully operational.”

Township officials said sustainability is one of the township's overarching goals.

“We didn't just want some panels on the roof,” said township commissioner George Macino. “We want this to be part of something larger.”

The township also is in the process of switching over to LED street lights and creating a regional compost site.

Township manager Sal Sirabella said he hopes Collier sets an example for both its residents and its businesses.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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