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Hybrid Solar-Wind Generates Savings for South Dakota City

July 19, 2010 - 4:05pm

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An array of six solar panels, similar to the ones shown, will be installed at Colton, S.D.'s city hall.
| Photo courtesy of Colton.

The city of Colton, South Dakota. is a small, agriculturally-based community. So small that Mayor Erik Miller says if his two Labrador retrievers ever got lost, local residents would have no trouble finding them.

"Colton is like taking a trip to the past," says Miller.

Still, the mayor is looking to create a new energy future for Colton, deploying one small-scale solar and two solar-wind hybrid systems, and conducting energy retrofits.

The tight-knit community of only 700 people is using a $55,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to implement a comprehensive Energy Independence Community (EIC) Initiative. A majority of the grant funds will go toward a solar energy system at City Hall and energy efficient retrofits at the East and West City Shops, the location of Colton’s public works operations.

"I just know this project will have a huge impact," says Miller. "The city is taking the lead in pushing renewable energy and hopefully the enthusiasm spills into the greater community."

At Colton City Hall, city officials will install a six-panel solar energy system on the building’s roof that will allow the facility to function solely on solar power production. Miller says the City Hall project will represent the "flagship" of Colton’s EIC Initiative.

The East and West City Shops will receive new electric service panels, energy efficient furnaces and lighting retrofits. The two facilities will also each install wind and solar ‘hybrid’ systems, which will use a combination of the two energy producing components with 1.2 kW wind turbines supplementing the electricity produced by 1 kW solar energy system.

The projects, which will begin this fall, are estimated to reduce the city’s natural gas and electric bills by $2,700.  The total project payoff is 19 years. Miller says he is not yet sure how the savings will be used in Colton.

In addition to saving energy, the city is expected to benefit from job creation – though an exact number of jobs have not yet been determined.

"The initiative will be the basis for more folks to get involved," Miller says. "Electricians, technicians and construction workers are all needed for the projects. We think a little niche market can be created."

 "It may seem small, but you don’t have to have a 10 kW system to make a huge difference," says Miller. "A lot of people think that, but you never consume all your electricity needs in a moment of time."

In addition, entry doors, overhead garage doors and windows will be replaced with insulated and more efficient models at the West City Shop. The changes will effectively double the city’s public works space to 5,000 sq. ft while at the same time reduce overall energy costs of city operations.

"We want to showcase this energy efficient technology and be a model for other communities to see," says Miller. "After the projects are completed, we will be the only city in South Dakota to have its entire city operations utilizing this technology."

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