Work crews installed hundreds of solar panels on top of Bainbridge City Hall last month. The system went live on Thursday, making the building partially powered by the sun. (Photo courtesy of Community Energy Solutions)
PHOTO BY TRISTAN BAURICK
Tristan Baurick / Kitsap Sun Puget Sound Energy meter technician Marshall Settle explains the first power readings from Bainbridge City Hall’s new solar power system to one of its investors, Stephen Douglass, on Thursday. The system was activated this week, making the building partially powered by the sun.
“Hear that?” Puget Sound Energy technician Marshall Settle said after stepping away from the switch on Thursday morning. “It’s pumpin’ out energy.” BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — With the flip of a heavy switch, Bainbridge City Hall began humming with power drawn from the sun.
City Hall’s array of 297 rooftop solar panels is expected to produce the equivalent of 20 percent of the building’s energy needs, according to Joe Deets, executive director of Community Energy Solutions, the Bainbridge nonprofit group that spearheaded the privately-funded project.
“This is a great day for Bainbridge,” Deets said.
The $500,000 project was completely funded by 25 investors who live on the island.
CES leases a 200-foot-long portion of City Hall’s roof and will pay the city half the value of the electrical production. The other half will to the investors.
One of the investors, Stephen Douglass, snapped photos as the system charged up. He’s a former physics teacher who built a solar array for his home after he retired.
“Why did I invest? Because I have a strong fear of global warming,” he said. “And I hate wastage and I hate coal-fired power plants.”
Deets estimated that the system will save the city about $30,000 on its energy bills over the next nine years.
Deets has been eying City Hall for a solar project ever since it was built more than a decade ago. It has an expansive, full-exposed, south-facing roof that he said seemed to be begging for solar panels.
The panels and much of the support equipment were produced by Washington state manufacturers, said Howard Lamb.
His company, Seattle-based Sunergy Systems, designed and installed City Hall’s solar-powered system.
Sunergy and CES teamed up for a campaign last year that put solar panels on 34 Bainbridge homes and businesses, more than doubling the island’s solar production capacity, according to Deets.
Bainbridge is now in the top five solar-producing cities in the state, Lamb said.
“Bainbridge is really putting itself on the map,” he said. “And now, with this new system on City Hall, awareness is really going to be raised on Bainbridge.”