PASCO -- TRAC could benefit from electricity or hot water from solar energy at no cost to Franklin County.
That's one benefit of two solar energy projects Franklin County commissioners considered Monday.
Although the proposals use solar power, one would create electricity while the other would heat hot water to replace natural gas.
Either solar project at TRAC could be used as a working lab for Columbia Basin College students in its new solar certification program, which focuses on installing solar hot water systems, said TRAC general manager Troy Woody.
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The hot water version would be installed on the pavilion and used to heat water for the ice rink's Zamboni and ventilation system, said Derek Brandes, CBC's dean for career and technical education.
That project, proposed by Silk Road Environmental, would incorporate 430 Mystic panels, which include 20 vacuum tubes each, said Ray Lam, president of the Kennewick company.
About 50 gallons of hot water would be produced each day, he said.
Using solar energy to heat water could save the county up to $40,000 a year on gas costs, Woody said.
The panels work in up to minus 30 degrees F, Lam said. The only time the panels wouldn't work is when it is snowing and in extreme rain.
The hot water could be used by other buildings from April to August, when the ice rink is closed, Woody said.
CBC has submitted a grant application that could help pay for the hot water solar proposal, Brandes said.
But even if the county can't get a grant for the solar project, Woody said Silk Road Environmental has a program under which the company will install the panels at no upfront cost. The company would share the county's savings until the costs are paid back.
That would still allow the county to start a solar project with no out-of-pocket expense, he said.
The project would cost about $250,000, including paying the $600 tuition cost for students in CBC's class, Woody said.
Under Seattle-based Tangerine Power's proposal, a group of community investors would own the solar panel system and have a lease agreement with the county.
The county would purchase solar power from the panel at a discounted rate compared with power from Franklin PUD, said Stanley Florek, CEO of Tangerine Power.
Tangerine Power would use the state community solar program to fund the project. Florek said investors, who would need to be customers of Franklin PUD, would be repaid with federal and state funds.
No one investor would receive more than $5,000 back yearly, Florek said.
Tangerine Power would be responsible for maintaining and insuring the system, he said. And the county would have a buyout option in 2020.
The project's maximum capacity would be 25 watts, based on the limit the state has sent for the area served by Franklin PUD, Florek said. That would produce around 35,000 kilowatt hours per year, enough to power about three homes.
Woody said that isn't a lot of power compared with what TRAC uses. But the project wouldn't cost the county anything and could be expanded.
Woody said the county is waiting to hear back on several grant applications for the solar energy project, including one to the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments.
* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org