“I like solar!” said Beth Hugh, Orange Township’s parks director. “We’re kind of getting our feet wet to see what it’s like.”
Hugh is talking about a small solar panel affixed to the top of the shelter at Orange Bridge Park, just off of U.S. 23.
As township officials considered the construction of the park on the one-acre lot, a leftover piece from the purchase of the land for the walking bridge crossing over U.S. 23, they discovered it wasn’t close to any electric utilities.
“The electric for Mount Carmel doesn’t come up any closer,” Hugh said. “So the choices were, waiting for electric or go get it from U.S. 23, which is incredibly expensive to bring to the site. … We bought the solar panels and the transformer. The cost was just under $12,000.”
Funding for the project came from township’s park levy fund, according to Hugh.
Hugh said waiting for future development to bring electricity closer was still 10 years way or the township could try solar power.
“We were excited to try solar,” she said. “We’ve been working with Scott Belcastro, Trebel LLC. We contracted with Trebel before the park’s opening. The solar panel was up there just not connected at the time.”
Hugh said the power generated by the solar system is only limited to the shelter of the park because it doesn’t produce enough electricity to sell back to the grid.
However, she said trustees have approved upgrading the current system’s transformer and battery pack to a larger one. She said at this point it would only power a couple of crockpots and a boombox at the most.
“We didn’t get what we were anticipating,” she said. “We didn’t get very much, so we’re going to upgrade it.”
Hugh said the upgrade would allow her department to switch out the shelter’s lights to the type used at the other parks.
“The lights are left on at night for security reasons,” she said.
Hugh said since the park is small it would at most be used for either a race start or a stopping point for someone to just enjoy the park.
“We don’t anticipate a whole lot happening here,” she said. “If we were going to do a bigger event we could bring in generators.”
Hugh said there have been discussions about expanding the use of solar power to other areas and departments in the township. She said the power requirements at the other parks are greater than Orange Bridge, especially at North Orange Park where the swimming pool is located.
“The large shelter at North Orange has the parking lot and landscape space if we want to add solar panels,” she said. “In those parks where we already have power, and if we add solar, we’ll look at the option to sell back. We have a lot of space for solar.”
Hugh said the township’s high demand is in the summer months.
“In the summer when our demand is high we can cut down on what we buy,” she said. “In the winter we don’t make as much, but we don’t use as much. What we make in the winter we would sell back.”
“I like taking Orange Township above and beyond,” Hugh said.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.