Newcomerstown Mayor Pat Cadle has a markerboard covered from end to end in black lettering that details the goals his team has for the year. In about a month, he’ll be able to cross a huge one of the list — one that’ll eventually save the village $185,000 a year.
Plans to get two large solar panel fields incorporated into the village is nearing completion. The panels are set up, and the final electrical work will begin shortly. The fields are located at the water treatment facility and sewage treatment facility, housing 2300 and 900 panels respectively. Installation and maintenance of a project this size generally runs about $2.3 million— Newcomerstown will pay $15,000. The village partnered with a Verde Solutions from Chicago, establishing a 25-year payment plan. In short, the money they’d typically pay to AEP for the electric bill will go to Verde instead. The payment plan has a fixed price, whereas the price of electric will rise annually. Cadle said they expect to save 12 percent the first year. John Ney, director of business development for Regon Energy, helped facilitate the deal.
"Sunshine is free of charge," Ney said. "It’s a mechanism for driving energy for years to come."
The two sites will run completely on solar power.
"Those sites make up 80 percent of our electric bill, about $185,000 a year," Cadle said. "So we aren’t making money, but we’re saving money."
The money they save will be put into a special fund that will help pay for maintenance and replacement
Newcomerstown is the first municipality in the area to take on such an endeavor, but not for the first time. Cadle was a instrumental in getting two of the Newcomerstown schools switched to solar eight years ago. Since then, they’ve been able to save thousands of dollars a year. His experience with the past project has given him time to see how solar power plays out over time, and he says it looks good. The biggest hurdle other towns may have is getting the space to set the panels on.
"The people that have the land will jump on this," Cadle said. "They’d be crazy not to."
Ney agreed, saying that Cadle’s example will likely attract others in the area.
"Pat’s going to be a trend setter," Ney said. "Other municipalities are watching, and we hope they see the benefits."
The main concern many have had is durability. Since the installation at the schools, Cadle said their’s only been one maintenance issue with a converter, which the company took care of.
"Those panels are made to take 90mph hail," Cadle said "Costs are looking good too, they’re half the cost they were when we put them in the schools."
The panels are able to draw in enough power to run the facilities 24 hours a day, even though they aren’t able to store the energy. Cloudy days and foul weather aren’t enough to deter them either. If there’s enough light to see, the panels can do their job. The real benefits of a solar shift will be long term, but Cadle said this is only the first step. In the future, he hopes to be able to invest more in solar to where they’d be able to produce energy instead of breaking even, which is what’ll happen at the two current facilities. That money will hopefully go towards better wages for village employees.
"I want my people to be able to stay here and have a decent wage to take care of their families," Cadle said.
In 25 years, Cadle will not be mayor anymore — he even joked he may not be alive. But the plan he’s put in place to better Newcomerstown will be paying off more than ever, and that’s what he said matters.