Danville to use solar panels to set an example

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Danville is using a federal stimulus fund grant to generate interest in solar power in Southern Virginia.

The city will use a $202,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to buy and install photovoltaic panels on its Community Market building. The structure is part of a public facilities complex and community events center.

“We hope that this will draw public attention to solar-energy generation opportunities,” says Joe King, Danville’s deputy city manager, who noted that the grant was awarded to Danville Utilities. “It’s really to introduce solar technologies to the community.”

The solar panels are expected to provide 25 to 30 kilowatts of electrical output. They will power the lighting and electric components of the market during daylight hours. King says the panels, combined with the use of LED light fixtures, will enable the city to save an estimated 50 percent on the building’s total energy costs.

“People will actually be able to see the solar collector on the roof,” King says. The city plans to include information about solar generation on its Web site and to install computer-based displays of solar energy in a science center within the complex. “We hope we can really pique people’s interest in solar as a means of renewable energy generation.”

The grant is not large enough to buy and install storage batteries, King says, but city officials hope to apply for competitive grants. Being able to capture and store solar energy would allow the city to power street lights and parking lots around the Community Market.

The city also hopes to gain additional funding for solar panels on other city buildings, including school buildings.

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