Solar power plans
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Discussing the potential of installing solar panels for the Summit Hill Water Authority, during a special meeting of the authority yesterday, are, l-r, Chet Michalick of the water authority; Chrissy Mayernik, of Manufacturers Resource Center, Bethlehem; Mike Tirpak, borough engineer; Betsy Maholick, renewable energy consultant of Writing Works Inc., Allentown, and Matt Cordes, writer and marketing strategist for Writing Works.
Chet Michalik of the Summit Hill Water Authority is very impatient regarding solar energy, which is clean and could potentially save the borough money on electricity.
He wants to see solar panels installed ASAP. There's just one major problem.
"This is such a good thing for Summit Hill," he said regarding the solar energy proposal.
Michalik feels so strongly that he called an "emergency meeting" of the authority yesterday afternoon to discuss it.
Attending were authority members, two members of Summit Hill council, the borough engineer, an aide to State Rep. Keith McCall, a representative of the Manufacturers' Resource Center in Bethlehem; the director of the Carbon County Office of Planning and Development, and solar power professionals.
Despite all the heavy hitters in attendance, the end result hinges on whether or not funding can be obtained to make the project become reality.
Michalik hopes a 584 kilowatt-hour project that would supply enough energy to service the Pump Station, the Summit Hill Municipal Building, Ginder Park, Ludlow Park, the borough garage, and the fire station can be installed.
Such a project has a price tag of about $2.8 million and would only be possible with financial assistance such as government grants.
He said he would be content with a 300 kwh project that would just provide electricity for the pump house and possibly the borough hall. This project would cost an estimated $1.47 million.
He feels the latter project could be done by the water authority without the borough having to pledge financial support.
Joe Weber, president of Summit Hill Borough Council, said the borough has reached its debt ratio due to the construction of the borough hall and fire station, combined with the interim financing required for the two projects.
"I'm not sure we can borrow the money, or any portion of the money," he said.
Betsy Maholick, representing Writing Works Inc. of Allentown, writer and marketing strategist for the project, said application would be made for a PPL rebate which could bring as much as $500,000 for the project.
There's no guarantee on how much the rebate would total and it's on a first come basis until PPL funds for the rebate program run out.
She said to apply, some specific information is required, including solar plan size, a formal plan, and a diagram of the project.
Chrissy Mayernik, of the Manufacturers Resource Center, said a Commonwealth Financing Agency grant could amount to $1 million if application occurs by June 12. This would still leave the borough responsible for coming up with the additional finances.
The authority is eyeing a possible loan from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Mayernik stressed that it is important for the authority and borough to work on an agreement regarding financing and ownership of such a solar plant.
She said she feels the solicitors of the two entities will have to collaborate to determine if there is a way the project can become a reality.
One other suggestion raised was making application for state casino funds to help pay for the project.
Borough councilman John O'Gurek said the borough should make an effort to seek grants and loans.
"Now the money's available," he said. "A year from now that money will be gone with the wind."
"If we can finance this, I think this is something the borough is definitely interested in and something we'd like to pursue," Weber added.