IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Superior, Wis., FD Goes Off-Grid With Solar Array

The new solar array will generate about 171,000 kilowatt-hours per year, easily covering the estimated 95,000 and 100,000 kilowatt-hours per year that the headquarters building uses, officials say.

Two red fire engines parked in a fire station.
(TNS) — Mayor Jim Paine had the honor of throwing the switch to take Superior Fire Department headquarters off the grid.

The city's first municipal solar array system, located on the roofs of the fire hall and an outbuilding at 3326 Tower Ave., was commissioned Thursday, Nov. 9.

Construction of the solar array that will generate about 171,000 kilowatt-hours per year started in September. Cedar Creek Energy designed and installed the solar array.

"The system is designed to provide about 170% of the power we use here at headquarters so that additional power will be used to offset the energy bills of our other two stations as well as charge our two current electric small vehicles that we use for response," Fire Chief Camron Vollbrecht said. "It also has enough power that in the future we can charge an electric fire truck with having no diesel cost to operate that vehicle."

Headquarters typically uses between 95,000 and 100,000 kilowatt-hours per year, Vollbrecht said.

The solar project at the fire department headquarters was started by retired fire chief Scott Gordon. Last year, the council allocated funding for the project to be installed in 2023.

Vollbrecht said headquarters was chosen, in part, because it has a much larger surface area than other fire department structures in the city.

Paine immediately saw the value in making the investment in the project when it was presented to him last year.

"We are in a climate crisis," Paine said. "We do have to make investments in renewable energy. That's the responsibility of every citizen and every organization. I'm very proud that Superior is a part of the solution to a global problem."

However, he said the project is very practical.

"This is an investment in the fiscal health of this city," Paine said. "This is energy — trips for fire vehicles — that we no longer have to pay for. Every time one of those vehicles leaves this station, that cost citizens money. Now it costs less."

Paine said it's also an investment in reliability for the city.

"This keeps the lights on and keeps the vehicles running," said Paine, who added that he's proud of the department for initiating the solar project.

"They are one of most innovative departments now and they are setting an example for all of us," Paine said. "This is the beginning of a new way of financing and energizing and powering city vehicles, energy and infrastructure."

Paine said while the city has invested in the solar garden at North 28th Street and Hammond Avenue, this is the first municipal project, and it was initiated by the fire department.

The project cost the city $360,000, a portion of which could be repaid through grants, Vollbrecht said.

Paine said the panels will immediately result in budget reductions for utilities for the fire department. He said those impacts would go into effect this year, and the 2024 budget already reflects the reduced cost for energy.

©2023 the Superior Telegram, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.