KENDALLVILLE — When visiting the Community Learning Center, one might marvel at the theater or the brickwork at the former school.
But, visitors may not notice one major asset of the CLC. In fact, they’ll probably never see it.
On top of the roof, multiple arrays of solar panels are almost ready to harness the power of the sun and potentially power all of the CLC.
Julia Tipton, the executive director of the CLC, said the solar panels were an investment that she expects to see a return on soon.
“They should pay for themselves very quickly,” Tipton said.
In fact, Eric Hesher of Renewable Energy Systems, the company that did solar design and installation for the project, said solar panel projects like these typically pay for themselves in energy savings in six to 10 years.
And with a typical lifespan of about 30 years for this project, Hesher said, that’s a cost savings that will last decades.
As of Thursday, about 90% of the more than 1,200 solar panels had been installed on the CLC’s roof, Hesher said, with the goal being to have them up-and-running by the beginning of April.
But, before installation even began back late last fall, the CLC board wanted to plan the solar project responsibly.
Board President Robert Probst reached out to the building’s neighbors for input on where and how they would like the solar panels to be installed, Tipton said.
“That was one of the biggest things, was for the building to always look nice,” Tipton said.
The neighbors requested the solar panels not be installed in the parking lot. So, the development climbed to the roof.
The CLC still wants to engage the community in its green energy efforts, Tipton said. Eventually, there will be monitors set up in the main hallway detailing how they use and conserve energy.
Previously, representatives said the solar arrays may collect enough energy to take the monthly electric bill to effectively $0.
Other energy-saving measures the CLC has implemented include an efficient heating and cooling system from J.O. Mory and new energy-efficient windows, Tipton said.
The CLC’s solar panels face south and are stationary, and, yes, will also be able to power the building when it’s cloudy or at night.
“The solar system at CLC is a grid-tie, which means extra power generated during peak sun hours goes back to the electric company as a credit,” Hesher said. “The credits are essentially used to offset the electricity used at night and during the winter months.”