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PERU — Here comes the sun has a new meaning for the Peru Free Library.
With 49 solar panels installed on the southernmost roof, the library will soon generate its own power.
Librarian Rebecca Pace received a New York State Library Construction Grant, which paid not only for the solar panels and their installation but also a new roof, walkway and gas furnace.
She tailored the library's needs to a portion of the grant that focused on saving energy and accessibility.
"Our sidewalk was falling apart," Pace said. "We needed a new furnace as well. Natural gas was coming into the area, and we decided that would be more energy efficient not having to buy all that oil."
The idea of solar panels triggered an ah-ha moment while she was writing the grant application.
"I had to present this to our board because this is a 50-50 grant. We would have to come up with 50 percent of the money, and 50 percent comes from the state.
"The board said that's a great idea, so I pursued it."
In April 2008, she attended a grant workshop in Glens Falls and learned that Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties never spent all the money allocated to them.
"Because we are an economically depressed area, a 50-50 grant is tough for a lot of libraries. I just figured, OK that means there is a lot of money available to us. All we have to do is come up with half of that."
The Peru Free Library Board promised to fund the library's portion if a grant could be secured. During the application process, Pace received a call from the grant overseer.
"'She said, 'You know you get a large NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) incentive for anything to do with energy.' She said, 'You're going to get a large NYSERDA incentive for those solar panels.'"
Pace had noticed the incentive but didn't think she could use it toward the library's share of the grant.
"I didn't include that in the grant. She said, 'No, you can do that.' I said, 'Really?'"
The grant total was $134,582. Initially, the board had to come up with $67,291. But the Energy Research and Development incentive of $52,675 reduced the board's capital outlay to $14,616.
"We came out really well on that grant," Pace said.
The sidewalk was constructed by Pavers and Patios Inc. The new roof was hand-nailed by Douglas R. Dutilly Roofing. The solar panels were installed by Triangle Electrical Systems.
"It's all local contractors, which was another thing that was important to us," Pace said.
There's a big, sunny banner in the library to inform patrons of the library's green initiative.
"We have a meter from the solar panels attached to a wall in the library," Pace said. "It will show how much energy we are generating at any particular time. It will be on a wall the public will be able to watch, which is really neat."
The solar-powered energy should cover all the library's electrical usage.
"That roof is pretty much due south where the panels are. We need to do a little fine-tuning in the library. We need to get rid of an avocado refrigerator in the basement that is sucking electricity out of here at the speed of light.
"We're going to refit our existing fluorescent lights with new light bulbs that are a different size. We will do that promptly."
GAS POWER AHEAD
Pace knows there is a bill before Congress to give credits to facilities that generate more energy than they use.
"It hasn't passed yet. We will make more electricity than we use due to the fact we are a library. We are open five days a week. Two days a week, our computers are not running and our lights are not on."
As of Friday, Peru Free Library was powered by the sun.
The gas furnace is on hold due to paperwork associated with New York State Electric & Gas running a natural-gas line across a state road. The library is located on Main Street, which is also Route 22.
"This may happen this fall or in the spring," Pace said. "We have two years to complete all the work for this grant, so we're fine."
Last year, the library updated cosmetically with landscaping and painting of trim (cream) and the main door (bright blue).
"This year, it was structural improvements," Pace said. "The new pavers have added immensely to the outward appearance of the library."
E-mail Robin Caudell at: email@example.com