Solar coming to North Newton City Hall

Chad Frey
The Kansan
This month the North Newton City Council approved the construction of a solar array on the roof of a portion of the city hall out of a commitment to be energy efficient and to save money on electrical service long term.  Construction should start in early summer.

When North Newton constructed a new City Hall 2006, there was a commitment to LEED principles — a set of guidelines to "create a healthier, more sustainable future."

In other words, a commitment to energy efficiency. That commitment was also shown a few years ago when the city purchased an electric car, rather than gas, for the chief of police. 

This month the North Newton City Council acted to continue those ideas by approving the construction of a solar array on the roof of a portion of the building. 

"We have a lot of things that we have tried to do that are environmentally friendly," said Ron Braun, mayor of North Newton. "This is another step in that journey, cutting down on carbon emissions."

The decision, made last week, comes just in time for Earth Day of 2021, which is April 22. According to earthday.org, the theme of Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth™.

"On of the biggest factors ... is the fact that it reduces carbon emissions and it is another step in the effort to make sure that North Newton is environmentally conscious and friendly," Braun said. 

And while saving money was not the main focus, there will be a savings to North Newton taxpayers over time. 

Initial cost of the project is $43,000, though not all of that cost will be paid by the city. An anonymous donor has pledged $5,000 to the city for the project — dropping the expense to the city to $38,000. 

"The projected payback on that is probably between 15 and 18 years, following that there is only a positive result," Braun said. "Our estimated savings from the efficiency of system, in the end it saves quite a bit of money. ... The anticipated savings over the 25-year period that these panels are waranteed for is about $70,000." 

The council chose a company called King Solar, from Haven, to construct that solar array. The company is no stranger to the North Newton Community, completing projects with Bethel College, MCC, Kansas Electric and Kidron Bethel Village.  

Mark Horst, owner of King Solar, estimated the solar array could replace as much as 80 percent of the electricity used to power the building on any given day. 

And because of the focus on efficiency when the building was constructed, the size and cost of this project is smaller than it might be or a building of this size. 

"It is a very efficient building. It was built with efficiency in mind.  A typical building of that size might need twice as much solar as what they are needing," Horst said. "Because of how theirs it is built, it is quite a bit less. 

The project involves the installation of 49 US-made solar panels capable of generating 19.6 kWh over the 25 year life of the project.

The hope is for construction to begin in "early summer" with the array online by the end of summer or early fall. The panels will be installed over the maintenance shop of city hall — the western half of the building, which is the farthest from K-15.