Solar Panel Array To Help Heat, Power Ohio Prison

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) — A large solar panel project at a prison will save taxpayers $245,000 in annual energy costs while training inmates to install and maintain the panels as a route to future jobs, the state prisons agency said.

The 400 panels at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, about 50 miles south of Columbus, will be the primary source for hot water and heating in eight cell blocks, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said.

The lower-security facility opened in 1987 and has about 2,100 inmates with an annual budget of about $41 million. The prisons agency planned tours of the solar project there on Wednesday.

The company providing the panels, Indianapolis-based Solar America Solutions, says the project is the largest non-utility solar installation in North America. It will certify six inmates who completed a training program, including one prisoner offered an installation job upon his release in December, said Charlie Slavik, the company’s marketing vice president.

The company has a specialty working with correction facilities to install solar panels, including training offenders with a program based on an apprenticeship for plumbers.

Ohio says the project will help reduce natural gas usage and greenhouse gas emissions and has a 6.1-year return on investment.

Jails in Tennessee and Utah and prisons in Indiana and Wisconsin are among other correctional facilities with significant solar panel projects.

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