Powell's city operations committee on June 21 heard that preliminary work began on the installation of a solar system for City Hall.

Powell's city operations committee on June 21 heard that preliminary work began on the installation of a solar system for City Hall.

When finished, the system is expected to produce half the electricity used by the building.

The city met with the contractor, Thomas & Marker Construction Co. of Marysville, who is developing the plans for the solar panels' installation, city manager Steve Lutz told council. Completion is expected in September.

As part of the project, the city will have an interactive educational exhibit that will help educate the community on the project. The exhibit will include a device showing in real-time the energy produced by the solar panels, Lutz said.

Council approved a $687,900 contract with the company June 7. The project is funded by an $821,861 federal energy-efficiency grant through the Ohio Department of Development.

Council and committee member Brian Lorenz said, "Hopefully, the educational (exhibit) will get a lot of use."

The project is expected to save the city about $20,000 a year in energy costs, city planner Eric Fischer has said. In slightly more than 34 years, those savings would equal the $687,900 contract.

The city has heard comments about the savings not seeming to justify the cost, said city information officer Jeff Robinson.

Lorenz said, "You're always going to hear those comments."

The grant also will fund the installation of LED and light sensors on city property, plus energy-efficient improvements in Adventure Park.

Fischer said the city will have about $120,000 of the grant left over after construction costs. That money will be used for additional energy-saving features that will be approved by the state under the grant's terms.

"We are working on options to submit ... to the state for approval," Fischer said. "Some items being considered for expansion ... include solar carports, (which) would be over several spaces in our police department parking area (and) two- to four-car charging stations in the public lot. (The) hybrid (cars) coming out within the next year will be plug-in hybrids like the 2012 Prius. (Also planned are) additional LED lighting retrofits for our street lights as well as for 260 Adventure Park Drive. We are waiting to see what kinds of prices come back to us."

The grant money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Awards for Local Governments.