Florida Keys

They wanted a solar library. Then they found out about the 73-year cost

Marathon’s new branch library won’t get solar panels in the parking lot, county commissioners vote. This is an artists rendering of the new building.
Marathon’s new branch library won’t get solar panels in the parking lot, county commissioners vote. This is an artists rendering of the new building.

Work to build the new Marathon library could begin later this year but it will not include a solar array in the parking lot.

Cost of installing parking-lot platforms topped with solar panels could add anywhere from $700,000 to $1.4 million to the new library, which already has a $6.7 million price tag for design and construction, Assistant County Administrator Kevin Wilson told Monroe County commissioners March 15.

At $1. 4 million, Wilson said, estimates indicate it would take 73 years worth of electricity savings to recoup the investment.

“I’m not saying solar panels don’t work,” Wilson said. “I’m basing my recommendations on productive use of capital.... We’re looking at a lot of other capital projects.”

A more limited solar system on the building rooftop would cost about $140,000 and pay for itself in about 20 years, said Wilson, an engineer in charge of Public Works.

Commissioners voted, 3-2, to drop the parking-lot proposal and allow contractors to include rooftop solar as an option when submitting construction bids.

“We need to be leaders here. I don’t think the cost of energy is going to come down,” Commissioner Heather Carruthers said of her vote to retain the proposed parking-lot solar system. “I do support solar in a fundamental way.”

Mayor George Neugent also voted against dropping the more expensive solar plan.

Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said she was reluctant to spend the money since technology advances may soon offer an even more effective energy-saving system.

Commissioner David Rice said he doesn’t want to lose a good construction bid because the contractor doesn’t do solar. Commissioner Danny Kolhage voted with Murphy and Rice.

A call for bids on the library is expected this summer.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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