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Solar panels would make BREC more sustainable

Here's what the July 28 editorial could have said:

The Bemidji City Council voted 4-2 on Monday to support the application for a solar photovoltaic grant. The solar photovoltaic system would provide enough electricity (approximately 27,500 kwh annually) to offset the peak use of the geothermal pumps in the Bemidji Regional Event Center. It will lessen the burden on future generations and set a tremendous example for all of northern Minnesota.

The total project cost would be about $270,000, with $100,000 coming from the grant. The remaining $170,000 has yet to be determined, and even though over $500,000 remains in the BREC contingency funds, the Bemidji Sustainability Committee will work hard to find additional outside funds to support the project. Keep in mind that a decision was made recently by the City Council to approve $200,000 for a larger scoreboard for the BREC.

The city still has enough in the BREC contingency funds to cover the $170,000 price tag, but is it a good investment? Each kilowatt hour does not cost $10 as stated in the Pioneer on July 27 (unless you specify that the remaining kilowatt hours produced over the life of the solar panels are free). Since the industry expects solar panels made today to last thirty or more years, the cost per kilowatt hour with an $170,000 investment by the city would be closer to $0.21. Ottertail Power Co. charges about $0.07 per kilowatt hour now, but that number will certainly increase over time as fossil fuels become less common and the public demands change because of the many hidden dangers of using coal, oil and natural gas.

It's likely more financial support for this project will be found as many individuals and organizations realize that burning fossil fuels has many negative effects on the environment. It would be great to have at least some financial backing of the city, however, to show support for a project that began over a year ago by a group of community volunteers to make the BREC more sustainable.

It's a start to relieve future generations of taxpayers the burden of polluting, unsustainable energy consumption by the BREC. The photovoltaic design selected by the Sustainability Committee was chosen to be easily expanded, to take advantage of future opportunities for sustainable growth.

Erika Bailey-Johnson

Bemidji Sustainability Committee