HARBOR SPRINGS â€” The Harbor Springs City Council gave their approval on Monday for city staff to solicit bids for solar panel installations.
The panels would potentially be installed on the roofs of three municipal buildings â€” at Ford Park, the Skate Park and at the Harbor Springs Area Fire Authorityâ€™s fire station within city limits.
City manager Victor Sinadinoski said the city had originally looked into installing panels at city hall, the police station and the Department of Public Works building.
However, the Department of Public Works building was ruled out because it has a new roof with an extensive warranty. The city hall and police station roofs are both within a decade of being replaced, so it would not make sense to install solar panels now only to have to remove them in a few years.
The buildings at the Skate Park and Ford Park have roofs in good condition. They are smaller in size than the other municipal buildings that had been considered, so the installation costs would be lower. They are also in different locations around town that are all visible to residents and visitors, and would therefore draw attention to the cityâ€™s solar project.
â€śTheyâ€™re good locations,â€ť Sinadinoski said. â€śThey get a lot of visibility, but theyâ€™re small enough projects that weâ€™re not taking on a big risk by doing them.â€ť
Sinadinoski added if these projects work out well, they can look to include some of the larger buildings in the future.
â€śWe would get a return on our investment,â€ť he said. â€śSo whether itâ€™s 15-20 years from now, we would recoup the money we spent over the long run.â€ť
The fire station is owned by the Harbor Springs Area Fire Authority, and so the city would need to obtain the authorityâ€™s approval for the installation before moving ahead.
John Cupps, a council member and fire chief, said via speaker phone during Mondayâ€™s meeting that he thinks â€śitâ€™s a great idea.â€ť
Council member Cece Johnston questioned whether it was a good idea to include the building at Ford Park, which is not regularly used.
City staff noted the unused energy generated by the solar panels would go directly on to the grid, where it would be sold back to the cityâ€™s electric customers.
â€śEvery piece of power that is sold to our customers, we buy on the open market,â€ť said city clerk Nick Whitaker. â€śSo if weâ€™re producing our own and selling it, thatâ€™s just cutting out the expenditure of buying it before you sell it back.â€ť
Ultimately, the council voted unanimously, with one member absent, to allow city staff to issue an RFP to solicit bids for solar panel installations. They are aiming for a spring 2021 installation date.