More than 50 solar panels have joined beehives and a garden on the roof of Maldaner’s Restaurant in downtown Springfield.
Chef-owner Michael Higgins said Friday he expects to cut about $2,400 a year from his power bill with the aid of solar energy. The project also is the latest in the restaurant’s efforts to go green.
”It’s something I’ve really wanted to do,” said Higgins. “I’d like to see these improvements throughout the city.”
Final inspection of the solar panels was completed Friday.
The rooftop beehives and garden supply vegetables, herbs and honey to the restaurant at 222 S. Sixth St., where Higgins has been involved in a variety of citywide efforts to encourage recycling and energy efficiency.
The Illinois Green Economy Network, a consortium of community colleges, awarded a $38,854 grant toward the $65,000 installation cost through a partnership with Lincoln Land Community College.
With $15,000 in solar-power rebates from City Water, Light and Power and federal tax credits, Higgins estimated his out-of-pocket expenses at $350. Each of the programs requires upfront investment to qualify for aid.
As part of the grant, the 56 panels will be available to students training in alternative energy technology at LLCC.
LLCC director of workforce development Julie Rourke said photos were taken during installation to allow students to follow the process. Students also will be able to track the energy savings and visit the site.
“We’ll definitely come up here and show students what can be done, even in an urban area where there’s not a lot of space,” said Rourke.
WindSolar USA, based in Owaneco, installed the panels. Company founder and president Michelle Knox said she expects demand for solar-energy technicians to grow with the use of alternative energy.
“Projects like this are a stepping stone,” said Knox.
The Illinois Green Economy Network is awarding 15 grants to community colleges statewide, said Wynne Coplea, the director of college partnerships who previously ran the recycling program for the city of Springfield.
Coplea said education is an important component of the grants, which are funded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
“By installing these in places that are going to be very public,” said Coplea, “it’ll spark people’s interest, and we’ll see even more growth in renewable energy.”
CWLP energy planner Bob Croteau said 18 local projects have qualified for the utility’s solar rebates since the program started in 2012.
“It’s about half and half, residential and commercial,” said Croteau.