Work to convert the city buildings of North Vernon to solar energy began in full swing last week.

The Johnson-Melloh Solutions company was contracted by North Vernon to convert city-owned buildings, street lighting and traffic lights to solar energy.

North Vernon will be the first city in the U.S. to convert entirely to solar energy, North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs said.

“Some places have a building or two running on solar power but, so far, no one else has everything solar powered. Everything operational will be solar powered for us,” Ochs said.

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Most of the work to convert North Vernon’s Fire Department to solar energy has been completed, and so far the firefighters are happy with the results.

“You can’t believe how much better it is,” North Vernon Fire Department Engineer Brandon Smith said as he looked at the newly installed lighting in the building.

“If everything goes like it has here, it will be better for everyone when it is finished,” Smith added.

Work to convert lighting and other electrical functions in city buildings will continue throughout the winter months. After the city buildings are converted to solar power, the 579 street lights also will be converted to solar energy.

The process has been going well.

“We have only been here four days and we are already seven days ahead of our schedule,” Tony S. Johnson, who is supervising Johnson-Melloh Solutions’ light installation project in North Vernon’s Fire Department and the Emergency Management Agency building, said earlier last week.

The entire solar project is expected to be competed in the spring of 2018 at no additional expense to the taxpayer, Ochs said.