The sun one day could do more than just brighten the skies of Marble Cliff.

Solar power also could be harnessed to provide the electricity to power Village Hall and a portion of the community's streetlights.

Village leaders are exploring the feasibility of installing solar panels on the roof of its municipal building, 1600 Fernwood Ave.

"A key consideration for this is the ecological and energy focus and looking at a different energy alternative that may be available to us," Mayor Kent Studebaker said.

"Are alternative energy sources like solar the social responsible thing to do?" fiscal officer Cindy McKay asked. "There's also the ongoing question of fiscal responsibility. We know electricity and gas will be going up in cost. Can we reduce that by looking at solar as an alternative?"

The village is beginning to receive inquiries from residents interested in installing solar panels at their home as well, and at least one village home already is solar-powered, Studebaker said.

Installing solar panels at Village Hall could serve as a "test case" to help determine whether solar panels are a viable option and whether Marble Cliff should adopt specific policies and standards for the energy alternative in its code, he said.

Marble Cliff has no specific provisions in its code regarding the installation of solar panels, but uses an aesthetic principle that solar panels should not be visible from the street and should be installed on the back portion of a roof so that they are not facing another residence, McKay said.

"That could be a little unfair if that means one resident can't install solar panels because their house faces a street and their neighbor can because their home faces away from the street," she said.

Another issue is the number of residences that sit on corner lots, with the back of the house visible from the front of an adjoining home, Studebaker said.

McKay said the village has received initial cost estimates for installing solar panels at Village Hall from two local companies: Ecohouse and Solar is Freedom.

About 46 panels would need to be installed to power Village Hall and the streetlights located in the northern half of the village, she said.

The panels would power the streetlights on Fifth Avenue and on the northern side of Cambridge Boulevard, Arlington Avenue and Roxbury Road, McKay said.

"That represents a little less than half of the streetlights in the village," she said. "There are a greater number of streetlights in the southern half of the village than in the north side."

Fewer than 20 panels would be needed if the village opted to use solar energy to provide the electricity only for Village Hall, McKay said.

"We believe using solar panels would lead to an overall savings in what we pay for electrical service over the course of a year," she said.

During the summer, when the hours of sunlight would provide more electricity than would be needed to power Village Hall and the streetlights, Marble Cliff would receive credit it would be able to apply in the winter months when daylight hours are reduced or on rainy days, she said.

In an average year, the village pays $1,365 for electric service to Village Hall, McKay said. Based on the initial quotes received from the two companies and her own research, she said, the village could expect to save about $1,140, or 83%, annually if it used solar panels to power the building.

The annual cost for electricity to power Village Hall and the north-side streetlights is about $3,560, McKay said. The potential savings from the solar panels would be about $2,790, or about 78%, she said.

The initial estimates for the cost of installing panels to power both Village Hall and streetlights "are close to $50,000, give or take," she said.

By state law, the village would have to put out for competitive bid any project that would cost more than $50,000, McKay said.

"We're very stringent on that, so if it turned out the final cost was $50,000 and 3 cents, we would have to put it out to bid," she said.

McKay said she is waiting to hear back from at least one more company and will look to get more specific costs estimates for installing solar panels before the Sept. 16 meeting of Village Council.

"We'll hopefully know more then about whether we'll need to open the project up for bids," she said.

Unlike residents, the village would not be eligible for a tax credit to install solar panels because it is a governmental entity, McKay said.

The village also is reaching out to other communities, including Bexley and Delaware, that have installed solar panels, Studebaker said.

“We want to find out how it’s worked for them,” he said.

Marble Cliff plans to install electric-car chargers at Village Hall, and the solar panels could provide power for them as well, Studebaker said.

"With the EV chargers and now the potential of solar panels, we're really moving into the forefront of the 21st century for what used to be viewed as a sleepy little village," he said. "Because of our smaller size, it's easier for us to embrace some of these new technologies than it would be for a larger community."

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