Using the sun to cool beer

The City of Morris uses the sun to cool the beer at the Morris Liquor store. This might sound somewhat impossible but is a fact that the Morris City Council learned at their meeting on March 14. The cooling process is generated by electricity from solar panels on the liquor store roof where the sun shines bright. That electricity then powers the refrigeration system in the coolers.

A special presentation at the Morris City Council meeting included statistics presented by two Griffins. Griffin Dooling of Blue Horizon Energy talked about putting additional solar panels in the city for the water plant and wastewater treatment facility. Griffin Peck, Sustainability Coordinator for Morris, gave a presentation on what the city is saving from the solar panels installed a little over one year ago.

Dooling is the CEO of Blue Horizon and his presentation focused on the panels that would be needed on the two additional sites. He recommended that the council members approve a Consulting Service Agreement for his company to start working on a plan. They would also work with Otter Tail Power and try to find potential funding sources.

Council member Brian Solvie asked if there are any plans for what happens when the panels are no longer usable. The panels have an expected lifespan of 25 years and, as yet, no panels have reached that timeframe. However, Dooling stated that every part inside the panel is recyclable so he would not expect a problem in recycling them. The government is also looking at funding for a recycling center that focuses on solar panels. 

Solvie made a motion to approve the consulting service as long as the recycling plan is also worked into the results. The cost for the consulting service is $31,700. An initial estimate for the solar panel cost at the water treatment plant is $1,578,000 with $631,200 in federal credits on the 400kW system. The cost at the sewer plant would be $450,800 with $180,320 in federal credits for a 60kW system.  Dooling estimated that the payback threshold is from 5-12 years depending on the upfront funding.

Griffin Peck then made a presentation on the current systems at the City Hall, Community Center, Liquor Store and Library. He broke down the total savings for three of the four buildings. He could not get a number for the library since it has not been connected for a full year. He said that the total amount in electrical savings in 2022 on the remaining buildings was $3,759. He said that there was a great deal of snow in 2022 which may have kept that saving down. 

This would mean that the estimated return on the investment will be 11.7 years. The lifespan of the array is over 25 years. He said that if the city approves moving forward with the addition of solar on the two other city owned properties, it could be one of the largest privately owned arrays in their territory. He said the city would be looking at construction in 2024 or 2025.

Councilman Jeff Miller stated that he is excited to look at the potential of moving forward on this. It was noted that Peck’s full report will be placed on the city website for public viewing. 

The council members also approved a contract with DDA Human Resources, Inc to start the search for a new city manager. The committee met and recommended this company and they will begin looking for applicants immediately.

Another resolution was approved for the advertising for bids for the airport apron reconstruction and expansion project. The electronic bid opening will take place on April 19.

There was one person present for the Public Input portion. James Buro who lives near Chizek Field has a concern about his well water and asked if there will be a possibility of connecting to city water in the future. The city council is working with an engineer about the 7th Street road work and might add in the extension of water and sewer lines. 

The council approved the purchase of several pieces of equipment to be used in the city public works department. These items will be paid for through funds received from FEMA after the massive cleanup last summer. Many of the items received extensive use in the clean up prompting the need for replacement.

City Manager Blaine Hill and Brad Searle discussed some snow removal issues and stated that every snowfall is different and needs to be plowed in different ways. They stated that they are doing the best that they can with the way things are this winter.