December 02, 2008
Lime Hollow seeks $12,000 for solar panels
Panels would complete energy efficiency measures at new $800,000 visitors center
Lime Hollow nature center is seeking $12,000 in funding to cover the balance of a project to install solar panels on its visitor center building, a move that will complete the building’s “green” initiative.
The nature center’s director, Glenn Reisweber, said when the building was designed about five years ago, it was forward-thinking for its time.
“The board of directors and executive director at the time wanted to incorporate as many green features as possible and have the building be used as a teaching tool,” Reisweber said.
The $800,000 building, which opened in May 2007, is already utilizing various energy efficient features.
It has three toilets that drop waste into a compost bin instead of flushing and the building is heated by geothermal flooring that circulates heated water through a pipe system in the building. Natural light is let in through skylights and the artificial light comes from energy efficient LED bulbs.
The solar panels would be the latest of the building’s “green” measures and Reisweber said approximately $12,000 must be secured to fund the purchase and installation.
Reisweber said the panels are estimated to cost $52,000 and the center has already secured $40,000 from grant money and private donations.
Reisweber hopes to get the remaining money from donations and grants and is confident he can close the $12,000 gap by Dec. 15.
Should the funding be secured in that time period, Reisweber thinks the panels could be installed in the spring and they could be operational by December 2009.
“The building was built with solar panel installation in mind. The roof is southward facing which provides optimal solar cant (light absorption) for the building,” Reisweber said.
The panels would provide a 19-kilowatt system, which would be enough to make the building completely energy independent. The electricity produced could run everything in the building, from the motor that circulates air in the compost bin to the heating system that pumps hot water through coils in the floors.
The building is heated by water that comes from a 140-foot deep well off the back of the building.
The water is pumped through radiant coils that run throughout the building in the floors. The visitor center’s toilets are another innovative feature, implementing an underground concrete compost chamber instead of a traditional piping or septic system.
“All our water goes into the composting chamber that … creates the perfect environment for the microorganisms and decomposers,” Reisweber said. The chamber needs to be cleaned out every 15 years and Reisweber said he has to research ways the human waste can be utilized.
An electric motor circulates air within the chamber to ensure there are no smells emitted into the building. A vacuum system helps to suck the fumes into the chamber and out of the building as well.
Reisweber said the energy-efficient measures at Lime Hollow are very progressive. The nonprofit organization operates at an annual budget of approximately $225,000.
“We are educational. We want to say, ‘Here’s what solar is, here’s what solar does, come and see what can be done,’” Reisweber said, adding that Lime Hollow is taking the lead in energy efficiency.
“Let’s make a statement and have people follow suit,” he said.
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