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Correctional Facility Solar Array Project Takes Another Step Forward

by on February 28, 2019 10:15 AM

Plans to construct a solar panel array at the Centre County Correctional Facility moved forward on Tuesday with the selection of a vendor for the potential design and build of the project.

Commissioners authorized county personnel to negotiate with Solar Renewable Energy LLC, of Mechanicsburg, to determine if a feasible contract can be reached. The company was one of three to submit proposals.

A 1.7-megawatt solar panel facility was originally considered as part of the contract last year with McClure Company for a series of guaranteed energy savings initiatives at 12 county buildings. But while negotiations were ongoing, the county changed its electricity supplier to decrease its rates and the solar panel system proposed by McClure would not have been as cost-effective as initially planned.

Commissioners at the time decided to remove it from the contract and in November decided to request proposals to see if it could be done separately at a better price. 

Bob Jacobs, deputy county administrator, said the contract could be developed in several different ways, but that if an agreement is reached, it would allow the company to develop the system to provide energy to the jail and for the county to lease the array for the first five years. After that, the county would have the option to continue leasing or to purchase it.

Solar Renewable Energy has recently developed solar panel arrays near Mount Nittany Medical Center and at the University Area Joint Authority water treatment plant.

"There’s a benefit to bringing them on because they’ve already worked with the permitting entities and local folks in the area so they know the lay of the land," said Commissioner Michael Pipe.

The correctional facility array would be located on 6 acres on the east side of the facility and would have room for expansion.

While the project price and energy rates would be determined during contract negotiations, Jacobs said he expects the array to have a cost in the range of $2 million. When it was first proposed, as part of the energy savings program, the solar array was projected to save $3.1 million to $3.5 million in energy costs over a 20-year timeframe. That, however, is based on current electric rates, which are expected to have ongoing increases.

"With solar, you’re fixing your costs. Who knows what coal, oil, natural gas are going to cost 10 years from now, but we’re going to know to the penny what that solar array is going to cost us 10 years from now," Commissioner Mark Higgins said in November.

State and federal solar energy tax credits and incentives also would be available.

Commissioner Michael Pipe added that facility currently has a diesel generator to use in case of power failure, but that the solar array could have a battery system that could be used in those cases.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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