NORWAY — The Norway Opera House clock is now running on solar power.
Jim Bryant of Wayne, known locally as the clock man, said the hands of the clock are turning thanks to a 12-volt, DC solar panel installed on the south side of the bell tower this past summer.
“That's working very, very well,” he said. The panel harnesses the sun's energy and stores it in a battery pack that operates the motor for the clock. The next step, he said, is to change the bell striker to solar operation.
“That will take more amperage, especially at noon and midnight,” Bryant said.
The bell stopped working in 2007 when a partial roof collapse at the Norway Opera House cut electrical power to the building and forced the first-floor businesses out, Bryant said.
The building has remained vacant since then, but Bryant and town officials found a way to keep the clock ticking by “borrowing” power from the adjacent former Woodman's sporting goods store. A 110-volt temporary electrical wire was strung from that building to the clock tower four stories above it.
“It let the clock run on AC power until this summer,” Bryant said. That's when something fried the motor, he said.
“It may have been a lightning strike. I can't prove it though,” he said. The motor was not repairable or replaceable so the idea of solar power was developed.
Unless there is a long winter with no sun, Bryant said it is unlikely the clock will drag at all.
Bryant, who services scores of church and municipal bell-tower clocks from Ellsworth to Augusta, was on the road this weekend changing the time on 23 clocks, including Norway's, to standard time.
But Byrant, who is 77, says he'll have more time now. This fall after his annual appearance at the Fryeburg Fair, Bryant retired as the Hurdy Gurdy Man. The popular character stands almost motionless handing out fake tickets while two mechanical monkeys behind him play a grinder organ.
The tickets read, "This is a free ticket. It's not good for anything, but it's free." And then, at the bottom, "Be Happy, For-Ever. Please keep this for future reference!"
“It’s been great for 20 years,” he said of the stint.