Douglas County receives grant to install solar panels to power offices

Douglas County K-State Research and Extension employees are used to relying on the sun for healthy gardens and bountiful harvests.

But, they will soon be depending on solar energy for something a little closer to home: powering their offices.

Douglas County received a renewable energy incentive grant from the Kansas State Energy Office to cover a quarter of the cost of installing a solar photovoltaic system. The system, which is estimated to cost $20,000, is expected to produce 15 percent of the building’s electricity.

The energy savings would payoff the cost of the system in 16 years and in the next 25 years, the system will avoid producing 261,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s was a no brainer,” said Eileen Horn, who is the sustainability coordinator for the county and city of Lawrence.

Contractors have submitted two formal bids on the project. The Douglas County Extension Council, which oversees the extension budget, is expected make a decision on who to award the project to this month. Installation should occur in November or December.

If approved, this would be the third county building to have solar panels installed in the past six months.

This summer the county installed solar thermal panels to heat water at the Douglas County Jail. And, last week contractors finished installing a similar system at the Douglas County Youth Services building in North Lawrence.

Along with generating electricity for the 13-employee office, the solar photovoltaic system will give the extension office employees a chance to educate the community on renewable energy. A computer kiosk will be placed at the office to show visitors how the system works and how much energy is being generated in real-time.

“The extension office’s mission is education,” Horn said. “They do try out technologies that are applicable to agriculture procedures and then share that information.”

The solar photovoltaic system will be accompanied by an energy awareness program, which would include solar energy workshops and tours.