When the sun rises each morning in Neosho, 24 large solar panels at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery seem to reach out to grab the sun's rays.

When the sun rises each morning in Neosho, 24 large solar panels at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery seem to reach out to grab the sun's rays.

The panels will soak up the sun's energy and transfer it into electricity which will be used to heat water in the large sturgeon building. This warmer water will allow the endangered sturgeon to put on more weight at a faster rate and then be stocked in the wild sooner.

The solar panels are the latest addition to the hatchery's effort to go "green."

"Having to pump well water and heat it is very expensive," said Dave Hendrix, hatchery manager. "We will save a lot of money with this solar project. The electric company probably won't like us as much when we get the system fully working."

This solar project began two or three years ago, when the hatchery received a fish and wildlife energy grant. The hatchery contacted Crowder College since the local college has a history of work with solar projects.

The hatchery contracted with Crowder College who had the lead on the project, using contractors and subcontractors to actually do the work. Final work will be done today with a small test run. On Tuesday, the hatchery staff will have training sessions as experts teach the staff how to operate the system. And, if all goes well, the system will go online.
Water entering the sturgeon building is now about 62 degrees, but when the solar project begins working, the water will be heated to about 70 degrees, the perfect temperature for raising sturgeon.

While the solar panels cannot heat water for all the tanks in the sturgeon building, it will be enough for six important tanks. This will allow the staff to not only have warmer water, but they will use less water which means the electric pumps won't have to work nearly as much or as hard. The end result will be a dramatic cost saving.
"We are happy we were able to work with Crowder College and many local contractors," Hendrix said. "All of Neosho will benefit, as will the federal government."

The Neosho National Fish Hatchery is leading the way with green projects. The new visitor center is the only building in the hatchery system that received the Gold LEED rating, noting the building was built with conservation in mind. The hatchery also received the Department of Energy's 2012 Energy and Water Management Award, and this solar project will add to the hatchery's energy conservation efforts.

The large panels are located on the south side of the hatchery grounds, facing south to catch the winter sun's rays. On days when the sun does not shine, enough energy is stored in the panels to provide steady service.

Sunrise in Neosho is always welcome at the hatchery, and now the big solar panels will be there each day, waiting to catch that first ray of free and clean energy.