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West Virginia Municipality Goes Solar, Aims To Cut Costs and Inspire Residents

Northern Panhandle community goes solar

By Glynis Board
March 22, 2012 · The Village of Beech Bottom is hoping to cut energy costs and inspire home-owners in the area to do the same by installing a new solar panel array on their municipal building.
A company called Milestone Solar began installing a solar array on top of the municipal building in the Village of Beech Bottom this week. The old mill town of about 600 people applied for the $30,000 grant in 2009.  
  
The project administrator from the Brooke, Hancock, and Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission Barb Zimnox says it’s not been done in the area before. 
  
“It’s the first solar project for any municipality or county building in Brooke or Hancock County,” Zimnox says. “We just don’t have that kind of stuff out around here, so it is the first solar project in BrookeCounty.” 
  
Greg Sheperd is a city councilman who was instrumental in acquiring the grant. 
  
“There was an energy grant from the West Virginia Department of Energy,” Sheperd says.
“We had the option of insulating the building, windows, lighting, those types of things but there was also the ability to apply for solar instillations to generate electricity. After we looked at some other options that weren’t viable, we ended up with the solar. I was pleased with that outcome because it’s been an interest of mine, renewable energy, for some time.” 
  
Sheperd pointed out that as the municipal offices are only open during daylight hours Monday through Friday from 10 – 3, the array has the potential to produce up to 50% of energy the building consumes.   
  
“What we’re going to do is gather information on the components involved, how they are installed, what licensing, if any, is needed, how to install it, where to get the parts,” explains Sheperd. “We’re going to compile this information and provide it to the community. “ 
  
Sheperd says plans also include extensive monitoring of the capacity of the array. He says a history of energy usage and bills already exists to use as a baseline for comparison.   
  
“I understand from one of the contractors that one of the elements installed is going to be a monitoring tool,” says Sheperd, “so I anticipate there will be data that we will have access to and I don’t see why we can’t publish that our for the community to see.” 
  
Sheperd says they even hope to note weather conditions and keep record of energy usage and billing after the panels have been installed   
  
“I’m hoping that we’ll spur some interest within the community once they’re more educated about what exactly it is, how exactly it works, how accessible it is,” Sheperd says. “And once they recognize the economic benefits, presuming that energy rates will either maintain or increase over time, any power generated on your own home through solar or wind or any other method will be of economic benefit to the individual home-owner.” 
  
Sheperd hopes that generating interest and information might even generate employment opportunities by helping to create demand for renewable energy in the northern panhandle. 

Source: West Virginia Public Broadcasting (http://www.wvpubcast.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=24471)

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