MONTGOMERY, AL— Gov. Bob Riley has awarded $600,900 in economic stimulus grants to help three local governments in east Alabama harness the power of the sun to operate public buildings.
Riley awarded grants of $250,000 to Anniston, $162,000 to Lee County and $188,900 to Opelika for the projects. The funds are part of $9.6 million in grants to be awarded by Riley under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. The program helps governments and nonprofit groups improve the energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles, reduce fossil fuel emissions and create or retain jobs.
"These projects demonstrate the potential of solar power to reduce utility bills and pollution," Riley said. "And sunlight will not be subject to future rate increases."
Anniston will install 156 solar panels to power a portion of the city's Museum of Natural History building. City officials say the solar panels will generate enough electricity to save about $4,500 in energy costs per year. The museum staff will install a video monitor and software in the exhibit hall to show visitors how the system works and educate them about the benefits of using renewable energy. Additional funds of $51,440 have been committed to the project.
Lee County will install a solar-powered hot water system at its T.K. Davis Justice Center Complex. The system will use 36 solar panels and store up to 1,750 gallons of heated water for use at the complex. County officials estimate the system will save more than $28,000 in utility costs per year. The complex already uses solar panels to offset a portion of electricity costs. Information and data on both solar projects will be available on the county's Web site, www.leeco.us.
Opelika will install 112 solar panels to generate electricity to power a portion of City Hall. Opelika officials say the panels are expected to offset about $3,500 in energy costs per year. Local funds of $75,000 have been committed to the project.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the awards from funds made available to the state by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Riley notified mayors Gene Robinson of Anniston and Gary Fuller of Opelika as well as Bill English, chairman of the Lee County Commission, that the grants had been approved.