GRANT − The 119-year-old Grant Town Hall received a modern-day update recently when officials added solar panels to its roof.
“I think it’s really kind of neat that we have a 1904 building with modern technology,” said Greg Hakala, Portage County Board supervisor and treasurer Grantr.
The town used American Rescue Plan Act money to pay for the $24,990 project, Hakala said. It then received a $1,687 Focus on Energy rebate and a 30% federal tax rebate, which brought the cost down to $15,906. None of the money for it came from Grant taxpayer dollars, but the taxpayers will benefit from the project.
On Wednesday, Wisconsin Rapids Water and Light made the final connections to start the sleek black solar panels on the town hall roof sending power to the building and the garage. Hakala, town Chairwoman Sharon Schwab and town Supervisor Doug Steltenpohl were on hand to see the newly installed electric meter start flashing as it powered the town’s two buildings and had extra power left over.
“Look at that!” Schwab said excitedly as she watched the meter flash.
The solar panels should create enough electricity to power the town hall, the town highway maintenance garage, subdivision street lights and a compactor the Grant Town Board plans to install in the transfer station, Hakala said. There also should be enough left over to send back to Wisconsin Rapids Water and Light for credit, he said.
The idea for the project came from a couple of town residents, Schwab said. The Town Board liked the idea and had the money from the ARPA funds, she said. It took a few meetings to educate residents about how the system will benefit them.
The town spends between $8,000 and $9,000 a year on electricity, Hakala said. The town now expects to see a credit on its bill at the end of each year.
The system is the same size as the system for a home, said Jordan Kaiser, Northwind Solar representative. Since the town hall’s roof is black, the black solar panels blend in. Someone not looking for the panels wouldn’t see them.
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Town officials were easy to work with, Kaiser said. When doing a solar project with a municipality, there are a lot of approvals to get and meetings to attend. Kaiser said. Schwab did a great job coordinating the meetings and making the approval process a smooth one, he said.
Town officials did have some concerns regarding the 1904 town hall. Steltenpohl worked with inspectors to ensure the roof would hold the weight of the solar panels, the attic area was in good shape and the land the town hall sits on would be appropriate for the project.
Schwab believes the town can use the project as a teaching moment. She intends to have a board created that will explain the process of how a solar system works and place it outside the town hall so that people interested in the system can see it.
“I’m just really excited about the whole thing,” Schwab said.
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