County jail gets solar hot water

MIDDLEBURY — When you get into hot water, you can wind up in the Addison County Sheriff’s Department (ACSD) lockup. Those who find themselves in that predicament can take a little solace in knowing that the hot water they use at the jail will have been made in an environmentally safe manner.
Work crews on Thursday began installing three solar panels on a garage at the sheriff’s department property at 35 Court St. as part of $24,000 in upgrades to make the offices and lockup more energy efficient. The improvements, made possible by a federal grant, will also include retrofitting the building with more energy efficient light fixtures.
“Our expectation is that it will reduce a lot of costs for the building,” said ACSD Capt. Charlie Clark, who noted the complex currently features a lot of fluorescent light bulbs and a water system heated by fuel oil.
“It will also decrease our carbon footprint.”
The money for the ACSD upgrades came from $153,500 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants secured by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) around two years ago. That money has also been spent on electric charging stations for vehicles; energy efficiency audits at 19 municipal buildings throughout the county; promotional efforts for communities to join the Property Assessed Clean Energy program; and local methane energy development.
Adam Lougee and Kevin Lehman, ACRPC executive director and energy planner, respectively, worked with sheriff’s department officials in selecting the best solar hot water/light project for their building, which can house up to 20 inmates. The jailhouse building is an historic structure, so the solar panels were installed on the neighboring garage, which is conveniently oriented to the south with ample sunshine.
“(The three solar panels) will supply roughly 60 percent of their hot water,” Lehman said.
Clark said it is too soon to tell exactly how much money the ACSD will save over the course of a year with the new energy upgrades. But he noted the department currently uses 392,000 gallons of water each year (primarily in the jail division) and spends approximately $800-$1,000 monthly on electricity.
In the short-term, Clark believes the solar panels should meet the department’s hot water needs in the summer, and make it unnecessary for the fuel-oil furnace to kick on. The furnace will be available to meet the department’s hot water needs if the solar system ever breaks down.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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