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Solar panel recommendation put on back burner

June 17, 2009

A plan to put solar panels on the Wauwatosa Public Works Building roof has been moved to the back burner because officials favor energy improvements with a greater return on investment.

Alderman James Krol said the city wants to use its energy efficiency grant dollars on improvements that will save enough money to cover their own cost within a 10-year period.

"At this time, the solar panels do not get us into that category," Krol said.

The panels still will be considered in an upcoming study planned to compare possible energy improvements in city facilities. However, Krol said, the city will prioritize improvements that have quicker returns, pushing solar panels "further down on the list."

The first of these improvements will be a $70,000 upgrade to lighting fixtures at the Public Works Building. Krol said new high-output fluorescent bulbs will provide at least $14,000 in annual energy and maintenance costs, enough to cover the cost of the upgrade in five years.

The Common Council on Tuesday approved the energy study, which will result in a spending plan for the $220,000 in grant funds that will be coming to the city by way of the federal economic stimulus package.

Wauwatosa staff recommended using most of the money for the solar panels, an expenditure that would reduce energy bills and serve as a visual reminder to residents that the city is trying to go green.

When the Budget and Finance Committee took up the issue last week, several members questioned whether a photovoltaic roof was the best way to use $190,000 of the funds, especially when they heard the payback would be $3,000 per year.

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