Wisconsin Rapids library ditches solar panels over high costs, low output.

By Oliver Townsend Jun 10, 2024
Wisconsin Rapids library's solar panels will be removed due to high maintenance costs and low productivity.jpegOrginal image from: https://www.wisconsinrapidstribune.com/story/news/local/2024/06/10/mcmillan-memorial-library-wisconsin-rapids-solar-panels-will-be-removed/73721452007/

The Wisconsin Rapids library has decided to remove its rooftop solar array due to high maintenance costs and low productivity. The solar panels, installed in 2017, covered the entire roof and were owned by Viking Electric Inc. of Spring Grove, Minnesota. The library’s Board of Trustees had the option to purchase the array after six years, but recent discussions led to the decision to have it removed instead.

Reasons for Removal

The solar array, capable of producing up to 159 kW, only reached a peak production of about 50 kW over six years. This inefficiency, combined with the fact that the manufacturer of the system went out of business in 2017, led to difficulties in finding replacement equipment and servicing the array. High maintenance costs and a low return on investment were key factors in the board’s decision.

Future Considerations

Despite the removal of the current solar array, the Board of Trustees remains committed to solar energy and is exploring alternative options for the library. A new, more effective solar panel array is being considered to ensure a sustainable energy source for the future. The board acknowledges the importance of being responsible stewards of the community’s investment.

Financial Impact

The solar array’s total cost was reported to be around $420,000 in 2017, with an initial payment of $125,000 made to Viking Electric. This payment, consisting of endowment funds and private donations, will not be refunded. The library also paid a monthly fee to Viking Electric, which was eventually shifted to a flat rate of $2,400 for the last five years of the contract.

Removal Process

A settlement agreement between Viking Electric and the library outlined that the array’s removal would be the sole responsibility of Viking Electric. Two previously scheduled removal periods were called off due to weather concerns, but the array is expected to be removed in the coming weeks during clear and dry weather. The library will be closed on the day of removal to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.

In Summary

The decision to remove the solar array at the Wisconsin Rapids library was driven by high maintenance costs, low productivity, and the challenges posed by the manufacturer going out of business. While the current array will be taken down, the Board of Trustees is actively seeking new solar energy solutions for the library’s future. This commitment to sustainability and efficiency underscores the library’s dedication to serving the community responsibly.

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