In a big step toward sustainability and forward-thinking environmental policy, the City of Erie has flipped the switch on a solar panel project that provides energy with a battery backup for Erie’s Central Fire Station.
Officials from the City of Erie, Green Mountain Energy, a Houston, Texas-based energy supplier of 100% renewable energy, the Department of Environmental Protection, and other key stakeholders gathered today at the station to celebrate the project.
The recently completed initiative, which was first announced in July 2022, is funded by a $200,000 contribution from Green Mountain Energy, a $25,000 grant from Penelec’s Sustainable Energy Fund, and a $24,375 Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority Restart grant.
An array of 225 solar panels with a capacity of about 88 kilowatts of power has been installed on the roof of Central Fire Station, 208 W. 12th St. The system is designed to provide 100% of the station’s annual electricity consumption with excess generation sent back to Penelec for bill credit.
The solar project also includes a battery backup system with enough electric storage capacity to power the station for up to seven days in the event of a grid power outage. This “microgrid” approach provides energy resiliency to emergency services for the City. It is a unique project in Pennsylvania and is among the first few municipal fire stations nationwide to combine solar energy with battery storage for backup emergency power.
City officials are thrilled to bring this project online.
“This is the City of Erie’s first publicly owned solar project and is especially unique because it does not simply provide on-site generation of clean energy, but also back-up battery storage, which means the system can operate off-grid even during power outages,” said Sarah Peelman, the City of Erie’s Sustainability Coordinator, who led the City’s team on the project.
Mayor Joe Schember hopes to expand the solar/battery projects to all of the City’s fire stations – and beyond – as part of his commitment to have the City of Erie serve as a leader and steward of Erie’s environment, natural assets, sustainability, and resilience.
“Erie is quickly becoming a model city in Pennsylvania as we move forward, adopting renewable sources like solar energy,” said Mayor Schember. “Improvements like this are vital to the City of Erie for us to continue to maintain our trajectory toward a sustainable environment for future generations.”
The $200,000 Green Mountain Energy contribution was funded by the Green Mountain Energy SolarSPARC® (Smart People Accelerating Renewable Change) program.
“Green Mountain Energy is proud to partner on sustainability projects with organizations making an impact in their community,” said Mark Parsons, vice president and general manager of Green Mountain. “Thanks to our SolarSPARC plan and customers, Erie Central Fire Station’s new solar panels and battery storage will ensure the station operates sustainably while keeping the community safe.”
SolarSPARC initiatives offer a variety of ways to make solar more affordable for homes and businesses including subsidies for energy storage and other innovative technologies; and support for new business models intended to lower costs. Not only are customers helping the growth of solar power, but they also earn an annual credit on their electricity bill that grows over time. Check out all the previous SolarSPARC projects and programs supported by Green Mountain’s SolarSPARC funds. “We want to thank everyone who made this project possible,” said Johnny Richardson, Senior Project Innovation Analyst for Green Mountain Energy, who was at Thursday’s event. “We look forward to seeing how these sustainable upgrades make an impact on the community of Erie.”