City council awards solar system bid at nature center

Published 10:36 am Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Austin City Council made Viking Electric of Spring Grove, Minnesota, the official choice to install the photovoltaic system for the new Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Interpretive building.

The council unanimously approved Viking Electric’s low bid of $155,353 for a roughly 80 kilowatt solar energy unit at its Tuesday meeting.

The bid was below the $175,000 budget for the project and far below the other bids, which ranged from $214,000 to $220,000 from Albert Lea Electric, Fox Electric of Austin and a Solar Connections of Rochester.

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Director/Naturalist Larry Dolphin admitted they questioned the difference in bids at first; however, an engineer working on the nature center project toured the Minnesota company that will produce the solar unit and was impressed.

“We feel good about that, and we feel good about the lower bid,” Dolphin said previously.

Austin Parks and Rec Director Kim Underwood said it would be the “perfect system for us.”

The nature center’s project to build a new interpretive center will cost about $7 million and will include several educational exhibits.

Initial work on the build and site started last year, and a groundbreaking for the building has been pushed back to April 22, which is Earth Day, though Dolphin expects work to start sooner. The goal is dedicate the completed project on April 22, 2017.