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Something old, something new: New Market's Grange Hall receives solar treatment
[February 21, 2013]

Something old, something new: New Market's Grange Hall receives solar treatment

NEW MARKET, Feb 21, 2013 (The Frederick News-Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A hall known for its dime dances in the 1950s is now the talk of the town for a different reason.

Atop the historic Grange Hall, workers from Solar-City started Tuesday installing what will be the biggest solar array in New Market's historic district.

Soon, 72 solar panels will stretch the length of the hall's south-facing side, providing the home of Rita Mueller and Milton Hart with 23,463 kilowatt-hours of solar power each year.

"I've always been thinking there's got to be a better way than oil," Mueller said while discussing her affinity for alternative energy sources.

Mueller grew up in Germany, where solar panels dot the countryside and her parents urged conservation after living through the lean times of World War II, she said.

"It's who I am. I'm a conserver. I'm a recycler. I'm in the antiques business," she said.

Mueller and Hart bought the Grange building in 1992 after their first visit to New Market.

"When we came here, it was like we were sent here," Mueller said. "We never looked back. It was a dream come true." The hall at 1 Eighth Alley was built in 1924 by members of the New Market Grange No. 362, making it one of the newer buildings in the historic district. The hall was sold and converted into a private home and antique shop after a new Grange hall was constructed in 1965, according to the organization.

Wayne Brechtel, an energy consultant with SolarCity, said the hall was uniquely suited for a solar installation. One side faces south, which is best to capture sunlight, and that side also faces away from New Market's Main Street, meaning the panels will not clash with the historic charm, Brechtel said.

The town's Historic District Commission approved the installation and a permit was issued in January, Mueller said.

It is still rare to install systems on historic properties, Brechtel said, because many fail structural engineering tests or are surrounded by old trees that block too much sunlight.

The company used special clamps to install the panels on the metal roof, so there was no damage to the historic building, Bechtel said.

"We can take that whole system off in 20 years and you'll never know it was there," he said.-- Instead of selling the solar panels, SolarCity charges for the electricity. The homeowner can either make monthly payments for 20 years or pay a lump sum upfront. Mueller chose the latter option.

She thinks solar panels will become more commonplace on historic houses.

"Every amenity you can think of, we've put in and on historic homes. We have electric cables, phone cables, TV cables, so solar panels are nothing to shun," Mueller said.

Mueller has been encouraging others to check out the new panels and plans to start a website promoting solar energy.

She has started by changing the plates on one of her cars to "GO SOLR." ___ (c)2013 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) Visit The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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