Dawn of solar age for Hamilton County

The County Line

Solar energy will likely be powering some county government facilities by the end of the year. It will be another step in keeping Hamilton County at the forefront in innovation among Indiana counties. Final approval of contract language with solar energy supplier, Johnson-Melloh, is expected early in October. Two weeks later mobilization is expected to begin, and installation is anticipated by Dec. 31.

The $8 million project will supply electric power to the entire Corrections Complex on Cumberland Road plus the County Health building on the east side of State Road 37. In addition, county officials are looking at the possibility of powering the Government and Judicial Center with solar energy when expansion of the building is done in the next two years.

County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt says costs will be compared to see if it is prudent to do a conversion at the Judicial Center.

Substantial cost saving is anticipated at the Corrections Complex where money now being spent on electric utility-supplied power will be used to pay for the solar system.

Cost studies indicate the new system will be paid off in 10 years. Solar panels will be placed on county land near SR 37 to collect heat from sunlight which is then converted to electric power for lighting, heating and cooling. The county now spends about $800,000 a year on utilities which makes it the second greatest expense for county government after salaries and benefits for personnel.

The effort to get solar energy has not been quick nor easy. Heirbrandt and fellow commissioners Steve Dillinger and Christine Altman proposed the project several months ago. It was under study by the county council throughout the summer. Then, at this month’s council meeting it was finally given a favorable vote pending final approval of the contract language.