Sunshine could help power the Marsac Building |

Sunshine could help power the Marsac Building

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Marsac Building might someday soak in the rays.

And that could help power the municipal building that serves as City Hall.

The Park City government has received $217,300 in grant money from a state energy program, part of which will be spent to install solar panels on the roof of the Marsac Building, a historic structure on Marsac Avenue that overlooks Old Town.

Tyler Poulson, who coordinates City Hall’s environmental programs, said staffers were notified of the grant money in the summer, after having applied for the funding in January. The funding originated in the federal stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was filtered to Park City through the federal Department of Energy and state officials, he said.

"This is the most important structure, in terms of sending a message," Poulson said, describing the impact of City Hall’s decision to add another environmental element to the Marsac Building.

Of the $217,300, City Hall intends to spend $155,000 on the solar panels for the Marsac Building. The rest of the grant money will be split between environmental upgrades at the Public Works Building, a City Hall energy audit and administering the grant.

The $155,000 set aside for the solar panels are expected to cover their entire cost, Poulson said, explaining the cost to Park City will be the staff time put toward the project.

He said staffers will seek the City Hall approvals needed for the installation and will consult state-level historic preservationists since the Marsac Building is a historic structure, put up as a New Deal-era project.

Poulson said the solar panels could be installed as early as the end of 2010. They would likely be set at an angle on the roof of the Marsac Building to best position them to capture sunlight.

City Hall must advertise to find a firm to purchase the panels from and have them installed. Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council are tentatively set to consider awarding a contract on Sept. 16, according to a long-range schedule of City Council meetings published this week.

According to Poulson, 75 solar panels will be installed on the roof of the Marsac Building. They are expected to produce approximately 30,000 kilowatt hours, or between 10 and 15 percent of the annual electricity usage of the Marsac Building, Poulson said.

The solar panels would represent another in a series of green upgrades to the Marsac Building. City Hall put in numerous elements meant to save energy when the building underwent a major renovation between 2008 and 2009, including a heating and cooling system that relies on the internal heat of the Earth, known as a geothermal system, and efficient lighting.

Meanwhile, the move toward installing the solar panels continues City Hall’s widely publicized environmental efforts, which have been especially aggressive during the administration of Mayor Dana Williams.

Park City leaders see the efforts as being critical as City Hall does what it can do in combating a changing climate. There are worries at City Hall and among the environmental community about Park City’s long-term viability as a mountain resort if global temperatures rise, potentially, some say, shortening the ski season and leading to worsening snow conditions.

David Herr, who manages the solar operations for a Park City-based private-sector firm called DwellTek, said in an interview the installation of solar panels at the Marsac Building would be a "step in the right direction" that would complement the other environmental upgrades at the building.

Herr said DwellTek, which conducts energy audits of homes and businesses, is interested in submitting a bid for the Marsac Building work.

"Park City, being an early adapter of this and doing it on a local level, is healthy," Herr said. "It’s a reflection on our commitment to sustainability and environment."

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