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Millwood Water Plant Saves Money With Solar Wall

MILLWOOD, N.Y. – With oil prices on the rise nationwide, one facility in New Castle has discovered a way to avoid having to keep up with the costs.

The Millwood Treatment Plant on Campfire Road recently installed a new solar wall free of charge after Gerry Moerschell, New Castle's deputy commissioner of public works, applied for a federal grant.

Moerschell was awarded the grant with the caveat that the plant needs to prove the cost-effectiveness of the system. In response, the plant created a screen to show the amount of fuel used over a 24-hour period.

"So far, so good," said Paul Steier, senior operator at the plant. "They anticipate us saving 2,000 gallons a year. Depending on the cost of fuel it could pay for itself pretty quick."

The $140,000 black wall was installed along the side of the building and heats up the facility using sunlight. On a sunny day, the wall is designed to increase the outside temperature by 40 degrees.

"It just heats up like a black car would," said Steier. "We don’t have to use oil to heat up the air. It’s being heated up by the sun right now. So for a good five hours a day, we’re not using oil to heat the building. That’s actually pretty cool."

According to Steier, the Millwood Water Plant is the first facility of any kind in Westchester to install a solar wall. 

"If oil goes the way it’s going, if it doubles in price, you would save $16,000 a heating season. It could conceivably pay itself off in a decade," said Steier.

Along with heating up the building, Steier said the solar wall also helps bring in the required amount of fresh air for the water. He said when the plant attempted to bring in fresh air during previous winter seasons, it would be too cold to operate the machinery.

"What used to happen is we’d get really cold days in the winter and we’d have to limit the amount of fresh air we had coming in," said Steier. "It was so cold it would hit the coils that bring the heated water through for the air and it would begin to freeze. Now we’re getting our required fresh air and it’s enhancing the heating rather than cooling."

After seeing the effectiveness of the system at the plant, Steier believes many facilities will start to follow its lead. He said the wall can be used for any large building, not just water plants. According to Steier, the wall requires little to no maintenance during its shelf-life, which he anticipates will last as long as the facility does.

"There’s initial purchase price, but after that it’s essentially free," said Steier. "What’s great about it is very, very, very simple. It doesn’t have any moving parts. It just requires sunlight."

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