Grants help 2 local nonprofits install solar power

A settlement in the controversial construction of a Knox County power plant has resulted in two Columbus nonprofits receiving grants to install solar power systems.

Duke Energy awarded a $53,406 grant to Thrive Alliance for the Armory Apartments it manages, and a $7,570 grant to the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center.

The agencies were among 16 nonprofits statewide that serve low-income senior citizens that received grants to help them lower energy bills at their facilities, according to a news release.

Savings from solar power will reduce the monthly expenses for both Lincoln-Central and Thrive Alliance to allow them to provide even greater assistance to those they serve, Duke Energy said in the news release.

Armory Apartments, located on the southwest corner of Seventh and Franklin streets, are for low-income senior citizens. The grant is the second financial award received this year to upgrade the 25-unit housing facility.

In June, Thrive Alliance, received a $1 million state grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Association for renovations now underway. The state grant is for making the 92-year-old building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system more energy efficient, said Mark Lindenlaub, Thrive Alliance executive director.

Lincoln-Central’s grant from Duke will be used to install solar panels later this month at the center’s office building, located at 1039 Sycamore St., said Diane Doup, community outreach coordinator for Lincoln-Central.

Duke’s grant will pay about half the cost of installing solar panels on the roof of Lincoln-Central’s office, but Doup said anonymous donors have agreed to pay the other half.

The grants to the 16 nonprofits are from an early 2016 settlement regarding Duke Energy’s $3.5 billion Edwardsport coal gassification plant.

Although construction began in 2007, the power plant didn’t go on line until 2013. When Duke began charging customers for cost overruns related to startup and testing phases, it created legal problems for the company and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

As part of the settlement, Duke agreed to provide $500,000 to fund small-scale solar installations for community, educational, religious and nonprofit organizations.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.