Companies to bid on solar project in Seymour

Two more companies want the opportunity to bid on a proposed project to convert some of the city’s departments from electric to solar power.

Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman said the city has been approached by officials with those companies about bidding on the project, which initially went out for bid earlier in the year.

The city received a $6.7 million bid at that time from Johnson-Melloh Solutions of Indianapolis — which completed a similar project in North Vernon — for the project.

The city now plans to re-advertise for bids for the project because of the additional interest, and that will possibly delay the start of the project for about five months, Luedeman said.

The city used an outside agency to initially advertise the project, and Luedeman said the two new companies may not have known about it until the bidding period had come to an end.

Luedeman said the two firms are expected to bid on the same work but may have different suggestions on a some of the items.

The project is not expected to raise taxes, and the city would not have to pay an electric bill in 18 to 20 years, Luedeman said.

If approved by the city council, the project would include installing solar panels to generate enough electricity to power the city’s department of public works offices and garages at Freeman Field; the wastewater treatment plant in the city’s far west side; and city hall at 301-309 N. Chestnut St.

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

Streetlights would be changed over to LED lighting, which would be brighter and more efficient, making a big difference in the community, officials from Johnson-Melloh Solutions said during a presentation at a previous council meeting.

Freeman Municipal Airport could be a location for solar technology that would help power the Seymour airport and Department of Public Works and also allow industries such as Valeo, Lannett, RR Donnelley, the Jay C Food Stores warehouse and others to tap into the renewable energy source.

The total savings of solar energy after 25 years would be about $4.8 million. An analysis from Johnson-Melloh Solutions showed the city currently pays $679,720 for its energy needs annually, which is 27 percent of its yearly budget.

If the solar project is put in place, it could reduce electric costs by 27 percent annually, the analysis showed.

Luedeman said he hopes construction begins next summer, but it will take a year or two to start phasing in the project.

“There’s going to be a lot of meetings and a lot of time spent getting it off the ground,” he said.

Council President Jim Rebber signaled his support for solar and said it would be a “good idea” to get two bids.

Councilman J.J. Reinhart agreed and said he would like to see the work each company has done on similar projects.

“We need another proposal, and we need to look at the experience that each of them have and what they’ve delivered to other communities,” he said.

Luedeman welcomed the other bids because it could lower costs or give the city better options.

“Hopefully, competition brings down the price of what everything costs,” he said. “Maybe there will be new ideas, too.”

Councilman Lloyd Hudson said he would like to see the city get two bids. He told council members he also would like to consider what each project includes, rather than just the finances.

“We don’t just want to look at bottom line, but what the projects include and what they offer,” he said.