Carbon County officials are looking at ways to produce and use clean energy.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board approved a proposal by Vincent E. Gilotti of Lehighton to appraise a one-plus acre parcel of land, located next to the Carbon County Environmental Education Center in Summit Hill. The fee for Gilotti's service is $750.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, announced that the appraisal is part of the county's project to help conserve energy.

"GreenPointe.Energy (Allentown), has given us a couple of options to put a solar system at the center," O'Gurek said, noting that it would be a ground mounted system. "We're looking at a couple of things, either selling the land to GreenPointe, and they install the system; lease the land to them and they install it; or maybe the county would just buy the system and put it in ourselves."

He added that the county will wait to see what the appraisal is before deciding its course of action.

"We're hoping to generate enough electricity through that system to take care of the entire environmental center and possibly the park operations," O'Gurek said.

This is only part of a multiphase project the county has been working on to conserve energy.

Last year, the commissioners hired GreenPointe.Energy to execute an electricity auction for the county, which took place in January.

Since then the county has been working on completing a lighting retrofit project at the 76 Susquehanna St. building; the Carbon County Courthouse, and the Courthouse Annex. The total cost of the project, which will replace light bulbs and things of that nature with more energy efficient models, will be $5,260.

O'Gurek also announced that the county is also looking into constructing a solar system at the Carbon County Correctional Facility on the Broad Mountain in Nesquehoning, which would power the prison and the Emergency Management Agency; as well as placing solar panels on the roofs of the Courthouse Annex and 76 Susquehanna St. building. The panels would be used to generate electricity to power the lights as well as heat the buildings.

"We think all of it will be good for the county," he said.

In other matters, the commissioners stated that they will be sending a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection after they received a letter from DEP about organizational changes within the Palmerton Zinc superfund development team. Over the last year, work to remediate the property by Phase III Environmental and Northface Development into a high tech office park have been taking place.

In the letter from Edward Dudick Jr., environmental engineer manager for DEP, he states that "the department received a letter from Steve Hoats indicating that Phase III Environmental is no longer involved with the project" and that Impact Environmental of New York has taken over regulated fill operations.

Getz said he wants to know what is going on in the project because Phase III Environmental, which is the only authorized entity to conduct regulated fill activities on the property, is no longer involved in the project.

O'Gurek said he already has started to draft a letter, on behalf of the county, with questions and concerns about the project.

He added that he will be asking DEP to take a good look at what's taking place down at the superfund site in Palmerton, citing reports that he heard about contamination.

"I think more than anything, the commissioners want to make sure what takes place down there takes place correctly and under the watch of DEP," O'Gurek said. "I am concerned about them bringing in materials from out of the state. I want DEP to look and make sure it's done right."

Nothstein agreed about the need to protect the environment, but questioned whether to get involved in the business practices.