A new innovation at the Winneshiek County Recycling Center will benefit both county residents and the environment.

The Winneshiek County Recycling Department recently installed a one-of-a-kind, off-the-grid solar lighting system at its drop-off center in Freeport.

"We know of no other recycling drop-off facility like it in the country," said Terry Buenzow, Winneshiek County Recycling department manager, referring to the solar-powered system.

"The system was activated just in time to be ready for the large influx of holiday-related recycling materials," he said.

Buenzow said the "massive increase" of night-time traffic at the self-service drop-off facility made the addition of lights a necessity.

"Simply running an electric cable overhead or trenching one under the parking lot was considered, but we felt that going with solar was a better option, overall," said Buenzow.

How it works

The system, which was designed by recycling department staff and their electrician, Brett Knapp of Decorah, runs on two, 275-watt panels with a battery pack and an inverter to power the variety of LED lights positioned throughout the building. Motion sensors turn on the first set of lights as a car pulls up to the facility and others come on when someone walks through the building.

Shortly after the recycler leaves, the lights turn off.

Buenzow said while many solar systems are hooked into an electric grid, the one at Winneshiek County Recycling is a stand-alone system that can be expanded as needed. He said additional enhancements will be added in the near future, such as informational video screens and traffic warning devices, due to the arge volume of traffic at the site.

Reduce, reuse

Buenzow said he was also "thrilled" to be able to reuse some salvage materials from another Winneshiek County project.

"The material for the battery pack platform and all of the electrical conduit came from the salvage project the recycling department did on the North Building at Wellington Place earlier in the year," he said.

Crossing over

Buenzow added although the primary mission of the recycling department is waste reduction, it often has to "cross over" into other environmental issues, such as energy conservation and water and air quality.

"This is just one of many energy efficiency improvements that have been made to the recycling plant over the past several years," said Buenzow.

For more information, contact the Winneshiek County Recycling Department at 563-382-6514, see Winneshiek County Recycling on Facebook or email recycling@co.winneshiek.ia.us.