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Solar grants ensure sunny days ahead for Athens, Augusta public libraries

GPLS News, July 2017

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Solar grants ensure sunny days ahead for Athens, Augusta public libraries

On June 23, EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) awarded one of two national 2017 EBSCO Solar grants to the Athens-Clarke County Library (ACCL). A few counties away, employees of the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System (ARCPLS) learned that their system would be one of up to five agencies in the state that will receive a Georgia Solar Program rebate from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA).

The EBSCO grant will provide ACCL and the Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling, Illinois, with $100,000 each to pay for the installation of a solar array. The grant offsets the cost of installing solar panels that allow buildings to reduce electricity expenditures.

According to Valerie Bell, executive director of the Athens Regional Library System (ARLS), ACCL plans to install a “Sunshine Garden” solar garden, a ground-installed array, on its campus. As part of the grant, the library also plans to partner with local schools to create a solar lab to demonstrate solar energy to children, as well as host a seminar for adults on retrofitting homes with solar panels in conjunction with the library’s “Reflecting, Sharing, Learning” programming.

“We are absolutely elated to receive the EBSCO Solar grant,” Bell said. “From our 2013 LEED-certified building renovation to our electric car charging stations, our library strives to be a community leader in environmental sustainability. We can’t wait to install our Sunshine Garden! Not only will it offset utility costs, but it will be a very visible, and beautiful, reminder about energy conservation to all.”

Bell gives credit for the award to Assistant Library Director Donna Brumby, whose research uncovered the grant opportunity and who wrote the grant proposal. EBSCO, a leading provider of electronic journals and books for libraries, received 90 submissions from 15 countries for this year’s grants.

Meanwhile, GEFA’s Georgia Solar Program will reimburse ARCPLS for up to $50,000 for materials, design and installation costs incurred from installing 60-kilowatt rooftop solar panels on the Friedman Branch Library in Augusta.

“This is a historic occasion for our system, as this will be the first time in our nearly 60-year existence that we will produce some of our own electricity,” said ARCPLS Director Mashell Fashion. “By using renewable energy to help power the Friedman Branch, we hope to realize cost savings that we can divert to serving our patrons, which is always our first priority.”

ARCPLS applied for the rebate program in March and expects to begin installation of the solar panels later this month and to complete the project by the end of September.

This is not the first time that GEFA has supported energy conservation through public libraries, having secured the initial grant in 2009 that provided Kill-A-Watt meters to every library in the state, a program that has now benefited Georgia residents for eight years by allowing them to check out a meter that helps measure both their energy consumption and the efficiency of the electric appliances in their homes.