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City hall taps into solar power

Joe Deets looks over the line of inverters that now scale the rear wall of city hall’s council chambers. The inverters turn the direct current of electricity from the solar panels into alternating current that the building can use. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Joe Deets looks over the line of inverters that now scale the rear wall of city hall’s council chambers. The inverters turn the direct current of electricity from the solar panels into alternating current that the building can use.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Something is buzzing at Bainbridge Island’s city hall, but for once it isn’t the worker bees.

The city’s center of operations has gone solar. Behind the building on Madison Avenue are newly installed inverters buzzing away as they convert the direct current provided by the solar panels to alternating current that the building can use.

With the installation of 297 solar panels, and the corresponding 30 inverters — all made locally by Itek Energy in Bellingham — city hall is the largest solar system on the island.

The 71.28 kilowatt system is also the largest single project that Itek has sold.

It will cover approximately 20 percent of the buildings energy needs each year.

City hall’s solar project is the culmination of investments by 25 local islanders that totaled $450,000.

The solar system is managed by Community Energy Solutions. The nonprofit will continue to manage the system while investors receive their dividends.

“My husband, John Cunningham, and I invested in the Bainbridge Island City Hall Community Solar Project primarily because it combines an opportunity to support our community using a sustainable technology and an innovative local investment model,” said Kathleen O’Brien. “We need more and more examples of this kind of leadership and thinking in our region. It’s just plain smart.”

Investors will profit from the project through tax incentives and the energy the panels produce to sell back to Puget Sound Energy.

Joe Deets of Community Energy Solutions knows the system will pay off well from previous experience installing solar panels on Sakai Intermediate School.

“We learned that it exceeded our expectations,” Deets said. “It’s not as an ideal site like (city hall), but even then the production numbers are quite good (at Sakai).”

While the juice is pumping into city hall, the project is just short of complete.

Soon Deets will install an informational display inside city hall that will provide real-time numbers showing how much energy the system is producing along with other information about the solar system.

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