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Companies seek solar-panel lease contracts from city

May 14, 2012

A plan to install solar panels on city-owned rooftops is set to be considered Monday evening by the City-County Council.

The city’s Office of Sustainability selected Indianapolis-based Johnson-Melloh Solutions Inc. and Carmel-based Telamon Corp. to install the solar panels after putting out a request last fall.

The companies, working together, plan to lease space on certain city-owned rooftops and sell the electricity generated by the panels to Indianapolis Power & Light Co.

The city will use the money from the lease, as much as $24,000 for each site, to support sustainability projects such as replacing street lamps with more energy-efficient bulbs.

“This is an opportunity to really showcase solar energy in our community,” said John Hazlett, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, during an April 26 Public Works Committee meeting.

Committee members unanimously approved the lease proposal by a 7-0 vote.

Leases for each site would run for 10 years with a five-year renewal option. The companies would pay the city $10,000 the first year for each lease and $1,000 for each following year.

Hazlett said the companies initially are targeting five locations, but the number could grow to as many as 30. The buildings under consideration are Department of Public Works and Indy Parks properties.

“We’ve got a lot of unused space on the roofs of many municipal buildings,” said City-County Councilor Zach Adamson, a member of the Public Works Committee who favors the agreement. “There’s a whole slew of possible locations.”

Solar panels also could be installed on the ground. But they would be protected by an 8-foot chain-link fence and away from prime park space, said Travis Murphy, Johnson Melloh’s business development manager.

“Our intention is to maximize the roof space if we can,” he told committee members. “We don’t want to take advantage of green space. That would be few and far between.”

The city would have the option of purchasing the solar panels after the leases expire.

The initiative is the third solar-energy project Indianapolis has undertaken. The city has installed solar-thermal systems, which help to heat water, at three parks facilities, and has put solar panels on the downtown City-County building.

Those efforts are part of a push started after Mayor Greg Ballard took office in 2008 to make 61 city-owned buildings more efficient with $18 million in upgrades to lighting, HVAC equipment and building controls.
 
Founded in 2009, Johnson Melloh Solutions is a division of Johnson Melloh Inc., a local mechanical contractor.

Telamon is a technology firm founded in 1985 by Albert Chen.

The two are part of ET Solutions, a joint venture that is leasing space at Indianapolis International Airport for an 11.5-megawatt solar farm on 60 acres at the airport’s entrance. Construction on the project is set to begin in the summer.

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