Royalton’s solar power initiative used in case study by Minnesota Department of Commerce

Royalton Mayor Andrea Lauer is shown standing on the city complex’s roof with a solar system manufactured by tenKsolar of Minneapolis and installed by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance of Pine River in 2009.

Royalton Mayor Andrea Lauer is shown standing on the city complex’s roof with a solar system manufactured by tenKsolar of Minneapolis and installed by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance of Pine River in 2011.

City Hall electrical use reduced by 39 percent

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

After attending renewable energy trainings sponsored by several government and non-profit organizations, Royalton Mayor Andrea Lauer kept her eyes open for the opportunity to use that knowledge to benefit Royalton.

“The focus of the trainings was on performing an energy audit to determine how cities could save money by making changes to their buildings,” Lauer said. “We did an audit of all city buildings and as a result, did a relamping project.”

Not only were the city’s buildings relamped, but old stoplights in the city were replaced with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

Motion sensor lights were installed in the break room and bathrooms and a programmable thermostat was put in the council chambers.

The city hit the jackpot when the chance to apply for a solar project grant came across Lauer’s desk.

Ultimately, the $33,600 grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, paid for 40 percent of the installation of the solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

A $16,000 rebate from Minnesota Power helped fund the installation.

The city also leases the roof to Sundial Solar of Minneapolis, enabling the company to take advantage of a 30 percent federal tax credit.

A 7.55 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system was installed on the roof of Royalton’s 12,000 square-foot City Hall by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance of Pine River. The solar panels are made by tenKsolar, a Minnesota solar manufacturer.

The impact on the city’s utility bills has been tracked by B3 Benchmarking, an energy tracking, reporting and benchmarking system developed for the state of Minnesota.

B3 helps to optimize the return on investment for an organization. Building codes that improve the standard of construction set a standard for construction performance in new and existing buildings. Beyond-code programs like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Green Rating System™ and other voluntary programs help to drive efficiency improvements above code in new construction.

There are 6,400 facilities involved in B3 in Minnesota and 1,200 in Iowa.

“One of the criteria for our participation in the Green/Step Cities program is entering the energy usage for each city building on the B3 website,” Lauer said. “We had to enter electric and gas usage for each building starting with 2007. It was a lot of work, but it totally paid off. Our city hall has an Energy Star rating and we can track the energy projects that we do for the city.”

Royalton was recently added to the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s online list of success stories, citing a 39 percent reduction in overall electrical usage at the city complex. The efficiency measures and solar PV generation combined to reduce the city complex’s annual electric bill by about one-third, or $1,700. Carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 31 percent.

More than the huge payoff for Royalton, Lauer is gratified to know that the project has benefitted Minnesota companies as well.

“Thanks to federal stimulus funds, we were able to provide work for two Minnesota companies and save energy and dollars for the residents of Royalton.”

  • Chris Lange

    Is my math correct? They spent close to $100,000 to save $1700 a year.

    • David Raustadt

      That’s the way our government works ! And our leaders also received awards for their great work. Too bad common sense tell you it wasn’t worth it. New light bulbs; Yes. The rest; No. That’s common sense.

  • robin hensel

    Good thing Royalton has a very progressive mayor…,.too bad Little Falls can’t claim the same.

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