Barlow Community Solar Education Center - Creating an Intelligent Community

Live lab introducing concepts of renewable energy and the benefits of adoption to the residents & businesses of Hudson.

Barlow Community CenterBarlow Community Solar Education Center

In conjunction with the Leadership Hudson Class of 2014, Hudson Public Power (HPP) partnered to bring solar panels and a Solar Education Center to the Barlow Community Center.  The City of Hudson hosted a Solar Launch on the global Earth Day initiative, April 22, 2016, to present the facility to the community and the schools.

The project offered the opportunity for many partnerships within the community. The Leadership Hudson Class of 2014 began fundraising in 2014 and received $50,000 in grant funding from local foundations including The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the Reinberger Foundation, The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, and Taste of Hudson for this project, as well as sponsorships from 20 other local businesses and organizations that supported this endeavor. The city received a prestigious $22,000 DEED (Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments) grant from the American Public Power Association for the project as well. Through $72,000 in funding from various sources, both public and private, the Barlow Community Center Solar Education Center was created to provide educational opportunities for residents, students, and emergency first responders.

Barlow Community Center’s photovoltaic system is now comprised of 55 roof-mounted panels and 10 ground-mounted panels totaling 15.125 kilowatt. The system provides roughly half of the building’s electricity. Real-time data collected from the panels on the Community Center are displayed on an LCD screen in the lobby of the building and available online for analysis by local schools and Hudson residents. The entire installation is viewable outside of the building. In addition to the structured educational element, any resident, whether attending a theater production or adult education class, government meeting, voting, or walking their dog can view all the components with instructional signage that explains the operation of the photovoltaic system.

Solar EducationStudents Learning About Solar Panels

Through legislation, the city created an interconnection policy to encourage residents to adopt solar. This interconnection policy limits residential output and output voltage to a maximum of 10 kw and 240 VAC and commercial to 200 kw and 208/240/480 VAC. The agreement also addresses system standards, disconnect requirements, voltage regulations, safety considerations, and code requirements of the NFPA, NEC, IEEE, NESC, and the Hudson Fire Department.

The Barlow Community Solar Education Center introduces residents to the benefits of solar energy. The solar education facility is estimated to save a total of $100,000 in electricity for the City of Hudson over a 25-year period and reduce carbon emissions by more than 40 tons per year. The students of Hudson have access to real-time data to better understand sustainable energy and spark interest in careers in the solar industry. The center enables the City to encourage the proliferation of a green energy source by educating residents and students about its benefits and technologies while providing an educational facility for the Hudson Fire Department and surrounding communities to gain real firsthand experience on the operations and unique hazards of this increasingly popular energy source. The Barlow Community Solar Education Center not only encourages the proliferation of solar energy, but also serves as an educational facility that provides the opportunity for lifelong experiential learning.

The City of Hudson has implemented an electronic record of the locations of solar installations throughout the City at the Hudson public safety answering point.  If a fire occurs at one of these locations, the computer-aided dispatch system alerts the dispatcher who then warns first responders of the presence of a potential hazard that might require special firefighting tactics prior to their arrival on scene.

In February 2017, the City’s Grants Coordinator, an Assistant Fire Chief from the Hudson Fire Department, and an Assistant Superintendent of Hudson Public Power presented a webinar for nationwide members of American Public Power Association to highlight considerations and lessons learned from the implementation of the Barlow Community Solar Education Center. Fifty municipal power employees from around the country registered for the webinar. The City of Hudson’s Interconnection Agreement was also offered to other members of American Public Power Association as a template for creating their own user agreements.

The City of Hudson’s Council-appointed Environmental Awareness Committee hosted a symposium in April 2017 titled: “The Amazing Story of Solar Power and a Crash Course,”. The symposium illuminated the subject of solar-electric power. Participants learned how solar photovoltaic technology works, the history and development of the technology, the economic landscape of solar power, and how to adopt solar power for their homes and businesses. Twenty Hudson residents attended to learn more about how the City of Hudson’s efforts to encourage the adoption of alternative energy. In addition, 15 students from Hudson High School, Western Reserve Academy, Kent State University and the University of Akron attended.

The City of Hudson has seen an increase in interest in photovoltaic systems and a former Hudson City Councilman recently installed the maximum size array allowed by City ordinance on his home to show his support of the technology. His 10-kilowatt array powers 70% of his home’s energy needs.

The new 68,000-square-foot ForTec Medical headquarters, opened in March 2018, features a rooftop array that serves as a showcase for solar technology in the City of Hudson. Production from the 200-kilowatt array, invisible from the ground, exceeds ForTec Medical’s energy needs. In its first five months of operation, the energy created by the array has surpassed ForTec Medical’s energy needs and has fed over 44,080 kilowatts of electricity back to Hudson Public Power through the City’s net-metering agreement.  

Hudson Public Power provides ForTec Medical with data downloaded from the headquarters’ meter monthly. ForTec Medical’s owner, a Hudson resident and supporter of sustainability and environmental stewardship, also wants to be able to advocate for commercial solar installations by showing financial benefits that make solar energy a more enticing investment.

The collaborative effort between the Leadership Hudson Class of 2014 and the city-owned Hudson Public Power (HPP) sought to increase interest in renewable energy by introducing the community to solar energy production. In the almost 3 years since the ribbon cutting of the Barlow Community Solar Education Center, the City has gone from a total of three small residential arrays to the addition of a 10-kilowatt residential array and a 200 kilowatt commercial array along with the collaborative advocacy for renewable energy from their owners.  

The Barlow Community Center Solar Education Center not only serves as a model for encouraging the adoption of solar in Hudson, Ohio, but it also serves as a model for other municipalities looking to encourage the proliferation of solar energy. This collaborative effort shows a meaningful environmental impact, economic benefit to residents and businesses, and that proliferation of solar energy production is viable within the community.