Franklin County commissioners appear to be in favor of moving forward with planning a solar hot water project at TRAC.
The solar project with Silk Road Environmental of Kennewick would be installed on the pavilion and heat water for the ice rink's Zamboni and ventilation system.
Commissioner Brad Peck said Monday that the project also will have a public education value, in addition to saving the county an estimated $40,000 a year in natural gas costs.
People don't seem to be familiar with the technology that would be used to heat water at TRAC, he said.
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That technology relies on ultraviolet rays for the process to heat water, Peck said.
The project would produce about 50 gallons of hot water per day.
Commissioners also received a proposal last week from Seattle-based Tangerine Power, where a group of community investors would own the solar panel system and have a lease agreement with the county.
Peck said he wasn't as inclined to pursue the photovoltaic system because it wouldn't produce enough electricity to make it worth the headache.
But Commissioner Rick Miller said he thought the county should consider pursing both projects as a form of leadership.
Tangerine Power is planning to work with Franklin PUD to see if a partnership is possible, said Troy Woody, TRAC general manager. If so, the limit to the amount of electricity that could be produced by the system would be increased.
Without that partnership, the project's maximum capacity would be 25 watts, which would produce around 35,000 kilowatt hours per year, enough to power about three homes.
The county has applied for a grant from the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments, and Columbia Basin College also has applied for some grants, Woody said. The plan is to use the project as a working lab for CBC students.
Woody said the county could find out the result of those grants in the next three months. Otherwise, the county can take advantage of the program offered by Silk Road Environmental, where the company will cover the upfront costs of the system and be paid half of the savings gained from the system's use until the cost is paid off.
In the meantime, Woody said he would get a firmer proposal from Silk Road Environmental.