Fire stations in East and West Asheville will soon get their hot water from newly installed solar panels, announced the City of Asheville’s Office of Sustainability. On September 16, technicians from Asheville-based Sundance Power Systems installed two collector panels atop Asheville Fire and Rescue’s Station 8 on Tunnel Road. Similar panels were set to be installed in the next few days at Station 6 on Haywood Road.
“This is a first for the city,” said Linda Fowler, Project Manager for the Office of Sustainability. “This fits right in with Asheville’s goals for reductions in energy use.”
Because firefighters occupy fire stations full-time, and use hot water at a level comparable to or even above residential levels, outfitting the fire stations was a good fit for reducing power costs in the city organization as a whole. Each station houses six to seven firefighters.
“For the firefighters, this is basically a house, so it made a lot of sense in getting the biggest payback fastest,” Fowler said. “It’s going to make a big difference in their electric bills.”
That means not only a reduction in energy use, but also a reduction in the Asheville Fire Department’s operating budget. The systems utilize flat solar collector panels to absorb solar energy and use it to heat water for domestic uses like showers, laundry and kitchen use. Though operating on solar technology, the stations’ hot water heaters will still be able access backup power in case of long periods of low sunlight.
Funding for the $21,000 contract comes from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, which seeks to stimulate jobs and business as well as encourage industry in new, green technology. The contract was awarded to Sundance Power Systems after an open request for bids.
“We are tied by law to that process, and accepting the lowest responsible bid,” Fowler said. “But it is always nice to have somebody local.”
In a separate project, the Tunnel Road station will also be receiving energy efficient weatherization by Asheville-based Home Energy Partners, including window replacement, weather stripping and insulation, which will further reduce energy use.
The fire station solar upgrades correspond to strategic goals established by Asheville City Council that call for Asheville to be green, sustainable and fiscally responsible. Council also passed resolutions in 2007 calling for the city to reduce its carbon footprint at an annual rate of 2 percent, and achieving an 80 percent reduction by 2050.