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City plans to install solar panels at public works buildings

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Indianapolis plans to install solar panels at three of its public works buildings in an effort to make those facilities more energy efficient.

The city has put out a request seeking companies or teams of firms qualified to install solar photovoltaic systems at operations buildings and garages. The winning respondent will be required to finance, build, own and operate the system, according to the request for proposals released Monday.

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.

John Hazlett, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, said the city may examine installing solar-energy systems in additional buildings. An incentive through Indianapolis Power and Light Co., which pays for renewable energy that’s generated and sold back to IPL, has made solar-energy opportunities a bigger priority.

“That makes deployment of renewable energy really attractive,” Hazlett said. “It's certainly having us take a closer look at solar.”

Hazlett wouldn’t discuss specific details about the cost or expected savings from the latest solar endeavor before companies submit responses to the request for proposals.

The deal's financial structure would be similar to that of the park facility improvements. In that arrangement, the city issued a bond at 3.2-percent interest to cover the roughly $391,000 upfront cost for the improvements. That bond will be repaid over about a decade with annual energy-cost savings of about $34,000.

If the city doesn’t achieve the level of savings needed in a given year, the company that installed the solar-thermal systems is required to cover the difference, Hazlett said.

For the latest solar project, the city plans to enter into a contract of up to 10 years with two 10-year options to renew. Potential providers include equipment manufacturers and companies that install and design solar panel systems.

A handful of solar companies are based in Indianapolis, including Ermco Inc., Earth-Solar Technologies Corp. and Johnson Melloh Solutions.

More local solar energy projects have begun to crop up in recent years as technology has improved and utilities have offered incentives, said Patrick Flynn, program manager at the state’s Office of Energy Development. Still, the state lags behind others with sunnier climates or more generous incentives or renewable energy standards.

Some examples of local buildings with solar-energy components include the Major General Emmett J. Bean Federal Center on East 56th Street; the Hilton Garden Inn downtown; and the Broad Ripple Brew Pub on East 65th Street.

“Solar has been around for a long time,” Flynn said. “But it’s becoming more and more of a viable option for companies and government entities.”

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  • Awesome!
    This is great news and should be used more. There are many companies that will install and operate these systems with repayments in energy savings. I believe we should mandate solar and other alternative energy efforts on government sponsored projects like North of South and others! Keep it up and I look forward to more announcements!

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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