NORTH VERNON — The process of converting nearly all city-owned buildings to solar energy is a little behind schedule but is about 75 percent completed.
“We thought we would be completely finished by now but we ran into a few delays,” said North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs.
Ochs explained one major delay involved repairing some of the structures before the solar equipment could be installed.
“When we actually got into the buildings to do the work, sometimes problems showed up in the structure of the building itself. It was things that would have had to be repaired anyway and it was a good thing they were identified in the long run, but repairs to some of the buildings did slow things down,” Ochs said.
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The decision to convert North Vernon’s city buildings to solar energy was finalized at a North Vernon City Council meeting in April.
Soon after, Johnson Melloh Solutions was contracted to convert city buildings, street lights and park lighting to solar energy.
Work to convert the North Vernon Fire Department to solar energy has been completed as well as some city office buildings.
Solar conversion work is continuing at the city golf course, the water department, the sewer department and the parks department.
“They are going to back to work on park buildings next week and I am looking forward to better lighting in this building,” said North Vernon Parks Program Director Sue Bright.
In the process of converting to solar energy, city buildings’ interior lighting will be replaced by LED lighting.
LED lighting also will be used on park sports fields, recreational areas and at the city pool.
Solar panels now line the roofs of park shelter buildings, offices and storage sheds.
“Someone said each panel weighs 50 pounds and there are a whole lot of panels everywhere. so, yes some of the buildings had to be re-enforced, but it will be worth it,” Bright said. “LED lighting is better and it will save the city a lot of money, so I am all for it. I think the whole park will be brighter,” she said.
In spite of the delays, Ochs said he thinks the entire project will be finished before springtime sporting events and North Vernon will still be the first city in Indiana to go solar.
“Right now we are waiting for Duke Energy to come in and finish their side of things. As soon as they are done with their work, we will be able to close things up very quickly,” he said.