April 19, 2021

County may install solar panels

Select county-owned buildings could save money on energy bills

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Solar panels may be installed onto the roofs of county-owned buildings.

Simpleray, a solar company and contractor that has installed panels throughout the Midwest, has proposed to add photovoltaic solar energy systems to six county facilities: the engineering office, Koppin Building, Jasper County Community Center, Jasper County Armory Building, the annex building and the yet-to-be-developed administration building located at the former NewCare.

By doing so alongside the financing source of Blue Flame Energy Finance, the county would enter into a 20-year energy services agreement. Josh Clark, a renewable energy consultant of Simpleray, said Jasper County would save — without any out-of-pocket capital expense — a little more than $10,000 in the first year and a cumulative savings over a 25-year period would be about $883,000.

Discussions amongst the Jasper County Board of Supervisors indicated the Jasper County Annex Building would not be included in the solar panel installation since most of the residing staff would move into the new administration building. Excluding the annex building may influence the final savings numbers.

Supervisors did not disclose what would happen to the annex building after staff moves during its Tuesday morning meeting.

The courthouse and jail are also not included on the solar panel system.

According to Simpleray’s letter of intent to the board of supervisors, both the company and Jasper County “have agreed to collectively develop” the solar panel systems onto county buildings, “the final terms of which are to be determined.”

Jasper County must agree to show good faith toward this process by providing Simpleray with a non-refundable deposit to start engineering and utility company negotiations. This amount is left blank in Simpleray’s letter of intent.

Clark reminded the supervisors that Alliant Energy does not allow customers to install enough solar to fully eliminate their electric bill.

Each county building installed with a solar energy system would still pay a drastically reduced energy bill to Alliant. The savings are based on how much energy the county would no longer have to purchase. Clark also said there is “essentially no upfront cost as far as non-recuperable dollars.”

He added, “In a cash purchase scenario — which this is not — we generally take 10 percent down towards the cash purchase of the project.”

Simpleray is purchasing the solar energy system through Blue Flame Energy. A down payment is negotiable and “could be as low as zero,” Clark said. The deposit can be fully refundable once the project is funded.

Solar panels would be placed on the roofs of the selected buildings. Adam Sparks, maintenance director for Jasper County, said the county and its board need to think about the structural integrity of the roofs before making a final decision, especially if the solar panels will be mounted for more than 20 years.

“Because we don’t want to put these up there and then in five years have to tear this roof off, because that’s a lot of work,” Sparks said. “So if one of these is going to go on a building and we have a roof that is within five to 10 years of replacement — who knows, 15 (years) — if they’re going to be up there 25 (years), that’s a thing we need to think about.”

Supervisors did not submit an official vote on the project, preferring to find out more information from Clark after the public meeting and allowing the county attorney to look over the agreement. Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott said the supervisors could meet with Clark at the Dec. 31 meeting to determine a final decision.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com