McMillan Memorial Library has installed the largest solar project in Central Wisconsin, a 235 kW / 470 panel system that will produce enough electricity for twenty-five average homes. The project is being funded by Viking Electric (which will own the project for the first six years) and the Library's Endowment Fund. The array went live on August 14 and an open house is planned for September 20th. We have an album of photos and videos on Facebook.
In the McMillan Memorial Library 2015-2020 Plan of Service, the Library Board called for taking steps toward a more sustainable facility. While the priority was on reducing energy usage, the Plan called for exploring power generation too. In the Fall of 2016, the Library began looking at how to implement rooftop solar, despite the lack of operational or capital funding for such a project in either the Library’s or City’s budget. Working with the Mayor’s Sustainability Council and the T.B. Scott Free Library of Merrill (which was undertaking a similar project), the Library developed several proposals, one of which was accepted by the Library Board in June.
The project is a 235 kW (DC) rooftop solar array, with a total cost of $420,000. This utilizes much of the Library’s roof. It is the largest solar project in Central Wisconsin and triple the installed solar capacity in Wisconsin Rapids. The array will produce 250,000 kWhs annually, enough to power twenty-five average homes. Most of the power will be used by the Library, but some will be sold back to the grid.
Viking Electric is serving as both contractor and tax sponsor for the project. They have funded 70% of the cost, overseen the installation and own the solar array for the first six years. During this time, they will sell the electricity produced to the Library at a reduced rate and benefit from various tax credits. Viking Electric is owned by Lincoln High School graduate Scott Prahl. Prahl became interested in the project as a means of benefitting the community he grew up in and the Library he used as a child.
The Library Endowment Fund has funded 30% of the cost of the project. The Endowment exists to undertake projects that benefit the Library but that are above and beyond the regular budget. The Endowment consists of funds donated to the Library over many years by community members and organizations.
After six years, the Library will be able to purchase the project, for about 30% of the original cost. The Library plans to fundraise this amount, with details still under development.
No City operational or capital funding is involved in this project, though there is incidental Library operational funding. Library, City, and Water Works & Lighting staff helped in the development, evaluatation and implementation of the project.
“We are very excited about this project” said Library Director Andy Barnett. “Finding a solid private partner to bear part of the costs and utilize the tax credits was the key to the project. Scott and Viking Electric bring a great deal of expertise to the project and we look forward to working with them.”
Mayor Zach Vruwink noted “As the first and only solar installation on a city building, we’re thrilled to advance our desires to be more sustainable- operationally to save taxpayers money and environmentally by introducing more renewable energy- all the while, offering an educational opportunity to our community.”