Beginning of a New Era
Through the efforts of the Mayor, City Council, Clerk-Treasurer along with Johnson Melloh Solutions, the City of North Vernon, Indiana, set out to do something that others have faintly dared to dream of. Becoming a solar powered community wasn't by chance but rather the actual fulfillment of who we were to become all along for the sake of future generations.
While this effort is a celebration of environment stewardship, cost control, quality of life and what some would consider a progressive movement, the full benefit and its impact will be mostly felt by those who come after. Yes, while some might still find themselves caught up in the whirlwind of its aesthetic appeal or lack thereof, the freedom that will be gained from being independent from the rising energy cost and the freedom of having access to the extra cash flow that is currently being paid back into a bond payment can silence even some of this project's biggest critics.
We are the first city that has implemented renewable energy to the extent that our city has. With our available green space, and a goal of controlling energy costs while enhancing the quality of life in our community, we made a conscious and calculated move to implement this technology in ways that other communities have not. We also worked closely with Johnson Melloh to do things a bit differently than others. Where feasible, we installed our panel on the roofs of our buildings, freeing up land and its potential use. The roof installations have also proved to easily blend into its natural landscape and in some cases, will never be noticed unless you are intentionally looking for them.
This $5 million project is to be paid back over the next 15 years, made possible without raising taxes. Breaking it out into two separate installations, one being replacing all lights (including street lights) with LED and the second, installing the solar panels. This project tallied more than 7,000 solar panels at 17 different city-owned sites along with more than 550 LED light installations. The typical insured panel is generally around 25 years although many panels have been known to last well beyond that and still function at about 80%. In terms of durability, most panels can handle golf ball sized hail at 60 mph.
While we are producing our own energy, our buildings are still connected to the electricity provided by Duke Energy and REMC. When there are electric needs and there is enough solar energy being obtained real time, solar is all that is used. However, when there isn't enough solar production and there is a need for energy, the system then uses electricity from the electric companies. We do not use batteries to store solar energy. Any extra solar production is purchased back by Duke Energy and REMC at a set price that becomes credits on our electric bill. The idea is to have enough credits to cover the electric usage month to month thus having a net zero electric bill. Our credits carry over from month to month until they are used up. The payments that would have been paid to the electric company are being used to pay the bond payment.
We know that communities are now wanting to explore the same energy independence that we have here in our community. We don’t blame you and are happy to assist you in any way that we can. If you are a community that is interested in knowing more, we ask that you contact the Mayor's Office by phone or email to schedule a visit. Otherwise, if you would like to do you own self-guided tour, FPBH has helped create a map of our solar locations that you can use on your own. Download our Solar Tour Guide now!
We are hopeful that future generations will see the impact and benefit of the bold move. So, on behalf of the City of North Vernon, please join us in celebrating “The Solar City.” It’s not every day that a project of this magnitude or relevance happens during our generation. However, it is in fact happening right here in the City of North Vernon. This is just one of the things that make us #TheDesirablePlace to live, play and work and it’s only getting better.