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Solar power helps run City Hall

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- City Hall is partially operating on solar power.

A new system using photovoltaic cells to produce electricity from sunlight is up and running, powering electric lights and appliances in the building.

"It's connected to the main electric system of City Hall and supplements the electricity that comes into the building from the city's electric utility system. Like other solar devices, it doesn't produce power at night but still can produce power when the sun is shining but the building is closed. That power feeds back into the utility system," Utilities Director Bill Meecham said.

City Hall complex has an electric load of about 100 kW and the solar system produces a maximum of 5 kW, Meecham said. The cost for the system was $27,194 and it was funded largely through stimulus dollars. The annual savings for the city is an estimated $574.

A solar water heating system was installed at City Hall in February. Both systems are intended mainly for educational and demonstration purposes.

The systems are being paid for through stimulus dollars administered by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority through Electric Cities of Georgia. Electric Cities received a total of $460,000, and allocated about $40,000 to Covington, according to Spokesman Doug Moore. In addition, the city contributed roughly $13,000, he said.

"This is helping not only the citizens of the cities where they're being installed but helping utilities themselves better understand the benefit of renewable energy," Moore said. "The big concern with any utility is the effect a solar electric system will have on the distribution system. There are safety issues that have to be addressed to make sure the system doesn't create a danger. This is educational to show how there is not only no danger, but they can also benefit."

Meecham said the system will be a good education for city employees who will likely be dealing more and more with solar power in the future.

"This gives us a chance to learn for ourselves how it works. We know the general concepts of this stuff, but I've never worked in reality with it and neither have most people here at the city," he said.