Solar panel grant awarded to Hazel Park District Library

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 27, 2021

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HAZEL PARK — The Hazel Park District Library is among four groups awarded funds to help pay for the installation of solar arrays, which will help reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint — part of the library’s plan to be more eco-friendly.  

“I think it’s imperative that we all do what is in our power to go green for the sake of our environment,” said Corrine Stocker, the library director, in an email. “Going green is also a fiscally responsible move for us. Natural gas and electricity rates keep increasing, and going solar will save us thousands of dollars every year that can be invested in programs, services and materials for our residents.”

The grants are awarded each year by EBSCO Information Services, a company that provides online research content and search systems for a variety of groups, including public libraries, schools, medical institutions, corporations, government agencies, and more.

The other three grant recipients include the Medford Public Library in Medford, Massachusetts; the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin; and the Virgin Islands Montessori School in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The library, located at 123 E. Nine Mile Road in Hazel Park, received $75,000 in grant funding. Randy Ernst-Meyer, one of the librarians, discovered the opportunity and helped craft the proposal. EBSCO had $200,000 total to award between the four groups.

The solar panels will be installed this year by Green Panel Inc., based in Michigan. The library expects a monthly reduction in its electric bill of more than 80%, and an annual reduction of as much as 101%. The library’s unique shape lends itself well to the panels, with the library receiving 12 or more hours of unobstructed sunlight. The roof is flat, and the portion where the solar panels will be installed is entirely south-facing.

In addition to the solar panels, the Hazel Park library has other sustainability goals, including a rainwater collection system, architectural ultraviolet films on windows, a bicycle-borrowing program, and office pods for public use.

The two rainwater collection tanks will harvest the rainwater that drains off the library’s roof, which will in turn be used to water the library’s grounds during the summer growing season, and save the library money on its water bill. The architectural ultraviolet films, meanwhile, will be applied to the library’s windows to reduce its heating and cooling costs.

For the bicycle-borrowing program, Ernst-Meyer said the library is exploring ways to create a program that would allow patrons to check out bicycles for a day with only their library card and a refundable deposit. As for the office pods for public use, he noted that the library has needed private study rooms for decades, but adding them would be prohibitively costly and eliminate what few green spaces the library has around the building. However, the pods present an alternative.

“Recently, small soundproof office pods have come on the market. They allow two to four people to have private meetings without disrupting the library or requiring the entire meeting room be given over to a very small meeting,” Ernst-Meyer said in an email.

“They can also be moved,” he said. “They have their own outlets, allowing the operation and charging of a variety of devices. They are climate-controlled and ACA compliant. It’s also our intention to add in a green screen and a professional microphone mount so that the room will be useful for (streaming), as well. These pods are relatively inexpensive; they do not require an alteration of the building’s physical structure, and they add very little to the library’s carbon footprint. Access to these pods should be a boon to our patrons.”  

In terms of other future initiatives, Ernst-Meyer said the library currently has a seed library, and he would like to see more space dedicated to nurturing seedlings for the future. He also noted that just as the library’s roof is unobstructed for sunlight, so too is it unobstructed for wind, and so a windmill might also be worth exploring.  

In the meantime, Stocker said she’s thankful for the solar panel grant.

“I am extremely grateful to EBSCO for their incredible generosity,” she said. “I’m also grateful to Randy for his tenacity in following through on his vision and making it a reality for us. This grant is a huge windfall for us that will allow us to create a brighter and more sustainable future for the library.”

Added Ernst-Meyer: “Hazel Park is a wonderful community of industrious and clever people. I hope that the library’s solar power system will inspire more area (businesses) to go solar as well.”

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