Seymour looking at solar solutions


In the final year of his third term in office, Mayor Craig Luedeman is trying to get one last major project off the ground.

Last November, Luedeman introduced the idea of tapping into solar energy to cut down on the city’s electric costs and as a way to save enough money to pay for renovations to city hall.

Last Monday, Luedeman reintroduced the idea to city council members by inviting representatives of Johnson-Melloh Solutions to talk about what it will take for Seymour to go solar.

If approved by city council, the project would include installing solar panels to generate enough electricity to power the city’s department of public works, the wastewater treatment plant and city hall.

The technology also would allow the city to use solar power for the 1,400 street lights it currently rents from Duke Energy.

Street lights would be changed over to LED lighting, which would be brighter and more efficient, making a big difference in the community, said Kurt Schneider, vice president of Johnson-Melloh Solutions in Indianapolis.

The total savings of solar energy after 25 years would be around $4.8 million, Schneider said. The total cost of the project is estimated at $6.7 million.

The project is not expected to increase taxes in Seymour and funding will be appropriated annually from the savings, Schneider said.

In 18 to 20 years, the city will no longer pay an electric bill for the solar sites, so the project funds itself, Luedeman said.

The process will be similar to what North Vernon has done with Johnson-Melloh over the past few years to become the first city government in Indiana to be completely powered by solar energy. That project was the result of the success of the Jennings County Public Library switching to solar energy.

Schneider said he and Luedeman have been discussing solar opportunities for Seymour for the past year and a half.

“Energy is a predominate, large portion of your budget,” he said.

With the cost of electricity continuing to rise, Schneider said businesses and communities need to look at ways to control and lower that cost.

By switching to solar power, Schneider said customers are avoiding the escalation of energy costs in the future.

Schneider said the biggest savings will be from the city’s wastewater treatment plant which currently is 60 percent of the city’s overall monthly electric costs.

The city’s current annual electric costs are $679,720, which is 27 percent of its yearly budget, Schneider said.

“This project will save $355,696 annually and is a 52 percent reduction in electric costs,” he said.

City engineer Nathan Frey said a large part of why the city is looking at going solar is to help offset the cost of much-needed renovations to city hall.

Frey said the city bought the city hall building in the early 1990s.

“There’s not really been anything done maintenance wise to it,” he said.

The building’s heating system was installed in 1983, and one of the boilers has been down for eight years now, Frey added.

“There will be a day when we come in and there won’t be any heat,” he said.

The estimated $2 million renovation project would include redoing the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, installing new LED lighting, replacing ceilings and flooring and the roof.

“It’s going to be a pretty major remodel on this building, and the solar project will offset the payments that it will take to do that project,” he said.

Schneider said the next steps if Seymour wants to pursue solar energy is to get interconnection agreements with Duke Energy for each site, negotiate land purchases near the sites for installation of the solar panels and to solicit financing.

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