IRC gets energy grant, low-interest loan

Solar Panels, LED lights to be installed at Buckhorn site

Penelec has awarded a $10,000 grant and a $10,000 low-interest loan to the Intermunicipal Relations Committee for solar panels and LED lights at the organization’s Buckhorn compost facility.

The IRC hopes the changes will make the site self-sufficient for electricity, according to Executive Director John Frederick.

Workers will install the solar panels on the back sloping roof of the site’s 75-by-66-foot storage building, Frederick said.

Luckily, that roof faces south, the direction from which the most sunlight comes in this part of the world, Frederick said.

The LED lights will replace sodium vapor lights in the storage building, Frederick said.

LED lights not only use much less electricity, they can be placed on motion sensors, so that when not needed, they turn off, Frederick said. The sodium vapor lights can’t be put on sensors because they take 20 minutes to come up to full brightness after being turned off, Frederick said.

The old lights needed replaced anyway, Frederick said.

The electricity from the panels won’t go directly to the facilities there — the only other building is a trailer used as an office — but rather into the electric grid, Frederick said.

That will earn the organization credits, he said.

“The meter will run backwards,” he said.

Frederick is hoping the work can be done soon, so the organization can “bank” electricity when the sun is shining for long hours during the summer.

The credits earned then can offset the likely electric deficit for next winter, he said.

At just one-fourth of 1 percent interest, the loan is almost interest-free, Frederick told the board.

“Neat,” said committee member Marla Marcinko, speaking of the project as a whole.

A side benefit of the project will be the capability of pointing out the solar panels to visiting students on field trips to the compost facility, Frederick said.

“We try to show a wide spectrum of environmental stewardship practices,” he said. “(So far) we have nothing on the energy front to talk about.”

The money is coming from the Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund, Frederick said.

The Penelec funding resulted from a discussion initiated by a request for help in constructing an energy efficient office building to replace the old trailer, Frederick said.

“They said it’s not their focus,” he said.

Committee member Jim Patterson suggested that the IRC build windmills near the 22-acre compost site.

There’s plenty of wind on the top of the mountain there, Patterson said.

That might be possible if the Blair County Solid Waste Authority would turn over 470 additional acres nearby, Frederick said, although he added that as he understands it, small windmills are not as efficient in generating electricity as are solar panels.

Investors would be needed if the organization were to construct large windmills like those on nearby Chestnut Flats, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.