Duluth businesses look to the sun for power

BY COLE WHITE | Lake Voice News Businesses in the Lincoln Park area are looking into options to go green.

Last spring, West Duluth businesses listened to proposals from UMD Civil and Mechanical Engineering students. In coordination with the UMD Office of Sustainability. These teams of students analyzed possible ways to save energy and shift to renewable energy options.

The program is called, Lincoln Park Shines.

Multiple businesses were involved, including Duluth Grill, Frost River, Bent Paddle and Lake Superior Brewing Companies.

The main focus of this study was examining the cost effectiveness of installing solar power and sustainable energy sources.unnamed

Proposals were for air curtains, fans that will blow down over the loading dock door and maintain interior temperatures at Lake Superior Brewing Company. As well as Solar Panels at Bent Paddle Brewing Company.

Tom Hanson, owner of Duluth Grill, was impressed by the level of research by the students and said it was a positive experience. Hanson said that it "wasn't just theoretical proposals, it was business pitches."

"We've implemented two of the four proposals brought to us," Hanson said.

The proposals employed include, a solar panel system that helps provides heat to the 5,000 gallon fish tank and a passive solar heat system that uses fans and piping to direct warm air from the top of the Hoop House, Duluth Grill's greenhouse/fish farm, into the gravel below.

The Hoop House sits in the backyard of Hanson's home in West Duluth. The garden and greenhouse there provides a majority of the vegetables that Duluth Grill uses.

The fish tank holds up to 800 fish used by the restaurant. Patrick Draddy, one of the farmers employed by Duluth Grill to work in the Hoop House among other places, said that the Amazonian fish Pacu is what will be raised there.

Draddy points out that they still employ traditional space and water heaters as back-up.

While many businesses were approached, there are still problems faced by small businesses wishing to use the sun for power.

The main concerns raised by businesses were over initial costs of installation. Mindy Granley, director of the Office of Sustainability and one of the driving forces behind the project, said the concern is valid, but that the cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the years.

“When UMD installed their first solar panels the cost was close to $80,000. Now that cost is less than half,” Granley said.

Granley also points out that over time the panels will pay for themselves, in addition to receiving government subsidies for businesses to embrace green initiatives.

With the positive reactions from Lincoln Park businesses, Granley expects the program to start next year. The new area of focus has yet to be decided.

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