Large solar panel project planned for central Indiana jail

File photo

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — A central Indiana county jail could become site for one of the largest solar panel projects in the state.

Hamilton County officials are looking to install 9,300 panels on the roofs of the jail, work release building, juvenile detention facility, woman’s annex and the administration building in Noblesville, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The panels are expected to generate enough electricity to power about 50 homes and save millions of dollars in utility costs.

The proposal also calls for solar panels to be installed on county-owned land nearby and would provide enough energy to providing air conditioning and heating to the jail and county health department buildings.

This is the second time in three years officials have considered investing in solar power, County Commissioner Christine Altman said. This time the project is more affordable, she said.

“The costs of installing the panels has gone down 200 percent since then, and the electrical rates keep rising,” Altman said. “It would be stupid not to do this.”

The project proposal estimates the cost at $8 million. The plan will be presented next month to the Hamilton County Council but Council President Fred Glynn said it’s unlikely the council will vote on the proposal at that meeting.

“This proposal is currently at $8 million and would add a significant amount to our debt load,” Glynn said. “It will have to be further examined.”

More than 25,000 homes in Indiana use solar power, according to the Solar Energies Industries Association and the state of Indiana office of energy development.