Solar panels, electric-car chargers are a go at Marble Cliff Village Hall

Marble Cliff is moving ahead with its plans to install solar panels and electric-vehicle charging stations at Village Hall.

The two charging stations, which will be installed in front of Village Hall, 1600 Fernwood Ave., are expected to be operational by the end of November, fiscal officer Cindy McKay said.

Before the chargers can begin to be used, American Electric Power will have to install a three-phase meter at Village Hall due to how much power the stations draw, she said.

“Most buildings only have single-phase meters because they don’t use as much electricity as we’ll be using with the charging stations,” McKay said.

The village will install Level 3 DC Fast Charger stations, which at 480 volts are the quickest and most efficient chargers available, said Abby Roen, business-development manager with EVunited, a Dublin-based company that is assisting the village with purchasing and installing the chargers.

“A typical electric car can get fully charged at a Level 3 station in about 20 to 40 minutes,” McKay said.

The parking spaces at the charging stations will be set aside for electric cars only, she said.

Electric-car owners will have access to the stations 24 hours a day free of charge, McKay said.

“They will be able to use an app that will give real-time information about whether charging stations are currently in use,” she said, “so if they find a station in Upper Arlington or on Fifth Avenue isn’t available, they’ll be able to see if our chargers are being used.”

In addition, if all goes well, the 52 solar panels to be installed on the roof of Village Hall will power the holiday lights Marble Cliff plans to hang on trees outside its Fernwood Avenue building for at least a portion of the Christmas season.

“Our goal is to have the solar panels in place before the end of the year,” McKay said.

Village Council members Oct. 21 approved a $47,000 contract with EcoHouse Solar for the installation of the solar panels, which will provide power for Village Hall and the streetlights on the north side of the village.

The contract is expected to be finalized and signed by mid-November, said Michael Brennan, a sales representative with Ecohouse who is working with the village on the project.

Ecohouse will install the 52 solar panels at Village Hall, Brennan said.

Twenty-two “black-on-black” 60-cell panels will be placed on the front portion of the building and will be used to power it, he said.

Thirty larger 72-cell panels will be installed on the rear of the building and will be used to power the streetlights, Brennan said.

The black-on-black panels are less visible from the street and will serve as a demonstration to residents of the type of panels they could install at their homes without being intrusive or unsightly, he said.

Ecohouse projects that Marble Cliff would see a return on its investment in the solar panels in less than 15 years, Brennan said.

“That’s the amount of time it will take for the village to have a simple payback of the cost” of installing the panels, he said.

The payback period would be shorter for a residence or business that can take advantage of tax credits or accelerated depreciations not available for a municipality, Brennan said.

In an average year, the village pays $1,365 for electric service to Village Hall, McKay said.

Ecohouse Solar was the lowest and best bid among the three the village received for the solar-panel project, she said.

Marble Cliff also received proposals from Columbus-based Solar is Freedom and Icon Solar, a Cincinnati company, she said.

Before the panels can be installed, the village will need to go through a permit process, obtaining electrical and structural engineering permits and an interconnection agreement with AEP, Brennan said.

When the panels are operating, the village would use the AEP power grid as its source of power during nighttime, cloudy days or when there is snow on the roof, he said.

The amount of electricity the solar panels generate will depend on the amount of sunlight they receive, Brennan said.

The village will automatically draw power from the grid when needed, he said.

“Vice versa, when Marble Cliff is generating more electricity than it needs, that excess power will go to the grid and AEP will give the village credit for that,” Brennan said.

Along with the environmental benefits of solar power, the village will have greater stability and predictability of its monthly power costs once the panels are installed and operating, he said.

After the permit process is completed, it will take only a day or two to install the 52 panels, Brennan said.

“It will be a seamless transition,” he said.

Village Council has held a first reading of an ordinance to add policies and standards on solar panels to its code.

The proposed section on solar panels would permit roof-mounted solar panels, subject to architectural review.

Rear and side locations would be preferred, but solar panels could be installed on the front roof facade if the property owner provides an analysis demonstrating why the front installation is necessary.

“In principle, the village hasn’t wanted to have solar panels be visible from the street, but it doesn’t seem fair not to allow residents who have a home that faces the street to put in solar panels while their neighbor is able to because their house doesn’t face the street,” McKay said.

Ground-mounted solar panels would not be permitted in the village.

Council members are expected to give the legislation three readings before voting on it, McKay said.

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