WARREN - The solar panels on the roof of Trumbull County's Job and Family Services Building don't need washing. Snow doesn't need to be removed. The bases are stainless steel and thus rust proof. When the electricity is out, the inverters power down automatically and when the grid comes back online, so do the inverters.
Plus, a 25-year warranty covers the panels, and some extra cash was spent on an extended warranty for the inverters.
''The system is virtually maintenance free,'' said Trish Nuskievicz, assistant director of the county planning commission and the force behind getting the system installed and running.
Trish Nuskievicz, of the Trumbull County Planning Commission, talks about the solar panels on the ro
Nuskievicz on Thursday presented the system and allowed for a tour to Eastgate's Environmental Planning Advisory Committee, a forum the metropolitan planning organization provides to talk regional environmental issues.
Trumbull County installed the panels with a $302,000 federal stimulus package grant in 2010. Since the switch was flipped on June 1, the county has saved about $3,100 on its utility bill and avoided the release of about 15.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equal to more than 1,732 gallons of consumed gasoline.
''This was an instant savings. The county was seeing relief on its utility bills immediately,'' Nuskievicz said.
Tribune Chronicle / Ron Selak Jr.
Trish Nuskievicz, assistant director of the Trumbull County Planning Commission, stands beside a solar panel array project on the roof of the county’s Job and Family Services building.
Photo by Ron Selak Jr.
She said the JFS building is an ideal location because of its flat roof and it's an energy hog, using an average of 60,000 kilowatt hours a month.
''Right now, at least for the summer, we're on track to save $1,800 a month,'' she said.
Now, the county is waiting on word from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on certifying the system as a renewable energy generating facility. That would allow the county to sell renewable energy credits to power providers, Nuskievicz said.
''They (commissioners) will get a check just for having that designation,'' she said.
County officials had considered placing solar panels on the building even before receiving the grant and even had a study done to show cost estimates and calculate how long it would take to recoup the cost if the county footed the bill, but the costs were prohibitive.
''It just wasn't economically feasible for them to wait 17 years before we began to break even,'' Nuskievicz said.
When the federal grant, which didn't require Trumbull County to put in any funding, came through, the county moved quickly on the project.
Another federally funded project, this one for Warren, was also discussed.
Tom Angelo, Warren's director of wastewater, said the micro-hydroelectric generator at the city's Main Avenue S.W. treatment plant is different from other renewable energy products because it never stops making power, unless it's shut down, because the water never stops flowing.
''As long as water is running, we are generating electricity and as long as people are flushing their toilets, the water is running,'' Angelo said.
How it works is treated water that previously overflowed at the back of a tank and into the Mahoning River now is drained from inside the tank and through a turbine, which drives a generator and produces electricity. The water then drains into the Mahoning River.
During periods of higher flow, excess water in the tank will continue to flow over the weir - or rim - of the tank, and still process 10 million gallons a day through the hydroelectric power station.
Part of the future plans is to raise the height of the weir to contain the additional water, in turn, creating more energy, Angelo said.
The project, completed using a $436,000 stimulus grant was as much about reducing the $700,000 to $800,000 power bill at the treatment plant as it was that this type of technology is feasible, especially as officials try to get a green energy and technology center up an running in Warren.