By Chris Gillespie
All public libraries connect history with the present and future, but the Oxford Memorial Library in Oxford, New York has taken that to a new, more sustainable, level.
Originally built in 1811 by Theodore Burr as a private residence, the house and its grounds were donated to the town of Oxford in 1900 to be designated as a free public library. Since then, the Oxford Memorial Library has undergone various significant renovations and additions, the most recent of which is the installation of a solar panel array. The panels were just put in place last October, so this summer will be the first that they will reach their peak performance.
The historic library’s journey to acquiring the solar panels started in 2014, when library officials were seeking new, creative ways to reduce their energy expenses in order to help balance the library’s budget.
“We knew we needed to do something with the energy cost,” Library Director Nancy Wilcox told Binghamton, New York’s WBNG 12 News in March.
It was important to the Oxford Memorial Library Board to hire a local company for the project and, as luck would have it, they were only thirty minutes away from Great Brook Solar, a solar panel installer with nearly forty years of renewable energy experience.
Originally established as Great Brook Enterprises in 1978 by David M. Austin, Great Brook’s stated mission is to raise consumers’ standard of living by saving them money and freeing them from dependence on centralized energy distribution.
The Oxford Memorial Library signed a contract with Great Brook Solar in late 2014 and applied for funding from New York State’s Library Construction Grant. The state eventually approved the library’s project, allocated nearly $50,000 for the installation of solar panels and released the funds in July 2016. The library was able to cover remaining costs for the project through generous private donations. Great Brook Solar also received financial incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for their involvement with the project.
“From all accounts, everyone at the library is quite pleased with the quality of the work that we did, the solar production and the money that it is saving them on their electric bills,” Deborah Swann, Great Brook Solar’s Office Manager recently told Green Energy Times.
Measuring at 110 feet long, the library’s 18.81 kW solar array is made up of sixty-six individual panels and is expected to generate 19,510 kWhrs per year. By switching to solar power, the Oxford Memorial Library will prevent ten tons of carbon emissions from being dumped into the atmosphere per year. At current electricity rates, the solar array will save the library over $2,000 per year in energy expenses.
Another aspect of the project was the installation of LED lighting. Library officials appreciate the reduced energy costs from the solar panels and LED lighting, as well as the environmental peace of mind that they offer.
“We were worried a little bit about the aesthetics,” Library Board member Fred Lanfear told WBNG, referring to the solar array. “But, they look good out there. Environmentally we are very proud of reducing our carbon footprint.”
In addition to utilizing the solar array itself, members of the Library Board can now use an online program that tracks the building’s overall energy use as well as how much energy is coming from the solar panels. They have also put up informational displays at the library that educate guests and patrons about their array and solar energy in general.
In fact, the library’s solar panels have been educating the public of Oxford before they were even activated. Given the proximity of Oxford Memorial Library to Oxford Academy Middle School, students were able to look out the windows of their classrooms and receive a firsthand lesson in renewable energy technology and the benefits and importance of clean, sustainable energy.
Chris Gillespie is a contributing writer for the Green Energy Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.