The solar age is about to dawn on Masonic Village at Elizabethtown.A $4.5 million solar-energy system under construction there is set to begin operating in February, it was announced Monday.

When fully operational in April, the system will be the largest at a continuing-care retirement community in Pennsylvania.

The system is expected to produce 1.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, or about 5 percent of Masonic Village’s electricity consumption.

“It fits really well with some of the other things we do,” said Patrick Sampsell, chief environmental and facilities officer.

The system will be owned and operated by Elizabethtown Solar Electric Partners LLC, which is unrelated to Masonic Village.

Rather, Elizabethtown Solar is a company formed and managed by Solar Renewable Energy LLC, based in Mechanicsburg.

Because Masonic Village wanted to add solar power but had no expertise with it, the retirement community turned to Solar Renewable.

Solar Renewable has completed 24 solar projects, all in Pennsylvania, said Doug Berry, chief executive officer.

It has 15 to 20 more in various stages of development in this state and New Jersey, he said.

At Masonic Village, Elizabethtown Solar is the developer, owner and operator of the system, first disclosed in April 2010.

Helping to fund the project is $1,176,000 in state grants.

Masonic Village has signed a 30-year deal to buy the electricity generated by Elizabethtown Solar’s approximately 4,350 panels, Berry said.

Sampsell said Elizabethtown Solar’s electricity will be priced 1 to 1.5 cents per kwh less than what Masonic Village now pays for electricity.

That lower price should lead to savings of $40,000 to $60,000 annually for Masonic Village, Sampsell estimated.

Elizabethtown Solar broke ground on the system Dec. 20.

The 5-acre site is behind Masonic Village’s marketing office and the community’s Bleiler Caring Cottage, a home for adults with mild to moderate developmental disabilities.

When the venture is complete, residents and visitors will be able to monitor its production in real time at a kiosk in the Free Masons Cultural Center.

Masonic Village, founded in 1910 and now with 1,700 residents, has been adding energy-efficient technology to its campus for the past decade.

Most notably, it’s installed six gas-fired microturbines, which produce 9 percent of the community’s electricity, plus heat used to warm some of the buildings on the campus.

Masonic Village also has bought hybrid vehicles, installed energy-efficient lighting and joined with other organizations to restore part of the Conoy Creek.

source: lancasteronline

 

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