RENSSELAER, Ind. (WLFI) — The Jasper County Jail has gone solar as part of a $2 million project to remedy the facility's history of heating and cooling problems.
"This building was built in 2008, it has a history of HVAC problems, and so we were looking for alternatives," says County Commissioner Kendell Culp. "We were having $20-25,000-a-month winter-time electric bills for this facility, which just was not sustainable."
The heating and cooling issues created an uncomfortable environment for inmates and staff, says Sheriff Pat Williamson.
"We had offices that were in the 50-degree range in the winter time, making it pretty chilly to work, and then we had our cell block areas where they had to hand out blankets and those types of things just to stay warm for the inmates," he says.
Solential Energy and Trane Technologies recently conducted an energy audit of the building. Experts found the building was losing heat through the walls, doors and windows.
"They spray foamed a lot, they sealed a lot of the doors and windows, upgraded lighting with LED, things like that, then added a solar field to help cut down on costs," Williamson says.
The project added a 2,320-panel solar array on three acres of county-owned property next to the jail. The solar field provides 50-90% of the jail's energy needs depending on the weather and time of day.
"The system will come on around 8 or 9 in the morning and goes off 4:30, 5 o'clock. In the summer it's extended," says Solential Energy President Jim Shaw.
Shaw says more governments are considering renewable energy as they plan projects.
"How did the pandemic affect things that are going on? And it really allows people to look down and look at costs and understand where our costs were at," he says.
Culp says savings from energy bills will pay off the project over the next 15 years at no cost to taxpayers.