- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Gardeners at the Historic Barns Park can now use a solar-powered irrigation system to water their fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The newly installed 12-panel array produces enough energy to cover watering needs at the SEEDS Farm and Traverse City Community Garden, but it’s also generating an energy surplus that will offset electrical consumption at Cathedral Barn.

“This is obviously something that SEEDS is super excited about,” SEEDS Executive Director Sarna Salzman told the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( https://bit.ly/1KunVMK ). “It’s the first solar installation at that property. I think there will be a lot more in the future.”

SEEDS officials previously used a generator to power the water well pump but pushed for a more sustainable, affordable alternative this summer.

“The goal is to offset the utility cost but also to offset the carbon impact,” Salzman said.

The panels since June 19 have reduced carbon dioxide emissions equal to burning 915 pounds of coal or 95.8 gallons of gasoline, she said.

They’re also projected to save between $350 and $400 in utility costs each year, said Mike Schmerl, co-owner of the array’s installer, Panoramic Electric. He called the panels a year-round win.

“The solar array we built for SEEDS will displace more power over the course of the year than is ever needed over the course of the summer to water plants,” Schmerl said. “When the growing season is over, the solar harvest doesn’t stop.”

Salzman wants to eventually install a live dashboard at the site so community garden members and the general public can see the solar array’s energy production in action. She said the park is the perfect place to facilitate energy education.

“I see it changing how we, as a community, think about energy in all its forms, and helping us have better dialogue about what we want to do with our own energy future,” Salzman said.

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, https://www.record-eagle.com


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