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Your future parks could be ‘solarized’ with money from U.S. energy grants

Get an up-close look at a solar energy system

Luke Rheaume's home at 816 Alexander Dr., is on the 11th annual state 2017 Illinois Solar Tour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.
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Luke Rheaume's home at 816 Alexander Dr., is on the 11th annual state 2017 Illinois Solar Tour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.

Parks in Madison County may be getting a solar boost in the near future.

The Madison County Grants Committee voted this week to approve $406,000 in grants for 11 solar projects across the county. The County Board is expected to vote on the grants at its next meeting.

The U.S. Department of Energy funds the grants aimed to “solarize” park districts, municipal parks and recreational departments within the county.

“This is the first time for the Solar Park Grant program in Madison County,” Community Development Coordinator James Arnold said.

Leftover Department of Energy funds are being used to fund the grants, according to a Madison County press release. Those leftover funds came from a block grant the county used on lighting upgrades in several municipalities.

The grants will fund the “solarizing” of items such as lighting, restrooms, scoreboards, charging stations and more. The maximum any project can receive is $50,000.

“All communities that applied received funding for their projects. Without this grant opportunity these communities would not attempt solar projects.,” Arnold said.

Five communities will receive maximum funding, including the New Douglas Township, Granite City Park District, Village of Marine, Wood River Parks and Recreation and Village of Godfrey.

“This grant is yet another opportunity to make improvements to parks within Madison County, while also being energy efficient,” Community Development Administrator Trudy Bodenbach said.

Godfrey’s director of parks and recreation, Todd Strubhart, said the possible solar upgrades the village hopes to complete with the help of the solar grants will help the city save money while becoming more eco-friendly.

“It cuts down our electric bill, it’s a renewable energy source, environmentally friendly and there’s low to no maintenance needed,” he said. “

Those projects most likely would have happened at some point in the future, he added, but the grants “jump-started” the process. He said in total the solar panels that would be installed on Glazebrook Park’s combined restrooms and concession stands will cost $75,000.

If the grants are approved by the county board, the village will end up paying $25,000 from its general fund over 4-5 years. Those may be offset by the energy savings from converting to solar as well.

The grant recipients, award amounts and projects are:

  • Village of Hamel: $35,253 — solar array for community park building

  • Tri-Township Park District: $22,750 — solar lighting for trail sections currently without lights

  • New Douglas Township: $50,000 — a solar array to power the RecPlex

  • Granite City Park District: $50,000 —solar array to cart barn at Legacy to charge carts

  • Village of Marine: $50,000 — a solar array to power Village Park and lighting of walking trails

  • Chouteau Township: $3,964 — solar-powered lighting in the park

  • Village of Godfrey: $50,000.00 — solar power concessions and restrooms at Glazebrook

  • Village of New Douglas: $38,841— village park solar lighting

  • St. Jacob Park District: $27,525.35 — three solar-powered scoreboards to baseball fields

  • Village of South Roxana: $28,420 — solar-powered lighting, tables, charging stations and benches

  • Wood River Parks and Recreation: $50,000— solar power to Belk Park

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