With a town meeting on April 19 and a citizens’ decision on broadband availability imminent, Baileys Harbor Town Council has voted to scale back an energy-saving project by phasing out proposed solar power.
Thomas Huberty of Trane’s Total Solutions Division had completed a detailed energy audit and energy savings proposals, and city officials liked most of his plan.
“My feeling is that we should do everything [in Huberty’s plan] until we get to the sewage plant,” city president Don Sitte said this month. “I don’t think we should proceed with installing the solar panels.”
In the end, the council decided not to spend more than $500,000 on solar power. Council has agreed to spend $690,000 on upgrades to city hall and marina lighting, as well as weatherization measures and the installation of controls and heating, a more efficient ventilation and air conditioning for the town hall, marina and sewage treatment plant.
Board member Barb Anschutz also wanted to add automatic charging stations for electric vehicles — another move the board has spoken out against. Resident Kurt Kiefer said he thinks the city could avoid paying for these.
“There’s infrastructure money coming in for that,” said Kiefer, who is part of the city’s ad hoc broadband committee, which is working to bring fiber to every address in the city. .
Treatment plant operator Don Prust said the city has already taken many steps to save energy at its facility – Huberty acknowledged his audit found only a few light bulbs in the plant which could be replaced by more efficient light bulbs – and at present, solar energy has not provided a fast enough return on investment.
Prust said he thinks the energy savings might take 20 years to pay for a solar panel at the processing plant, and the life of the solar panels might not be that long. Huberty said the lifespan was more like 30 years, but he acknowledged the city wouldn’t break even on the investment much faster than 20 years.
Prust suggested that when the plant needs an overhaul over the next five to eight years, the solar equipment may have advanced to a point where it will be more practical.
Board member Roberta Thelen said that beyond convenience, the city should install solar power and car charging stations because they are the right things to do. She said that in these critical times, the planet will benefit from 50% reductions in energy consumption by 2030.
“We have to find where to do a project like this,” she said.
Board member Peter Jacobs called the cost per kilowatt hour of the proposed solar panel extremely high, and Dr Tim Tischler, a town resident and chairman of the Planning Commission, said there had “just a lot to do for the city” and that the broadband project is more important right now than installing solar panels.
Nelson Waterfront Update
According to Sue Tischler, no tax revenue is used to pay Edgewater Resources to develop a master plan for the waterfront property the city acquired in 2021. She is a member of the City Council and the Nelson Property ad hoc committee of the city, which is planning upgrades to the old hardware store, motel buildings, marina, and the former Larson property nearby.
Ad hoc committee chairman David Eliot told city officials that money raised from donations could cover the cost of the Edgewater development, which is $41,680. The council voted to authorize city president Don Sitte to request that these funds be directed to the city’s Open Space Preservation Fund to pay for the Edgewater master plan.