Monday, April 25, 2011

Indiana Prison Uses Solar to Heat Water

An Indiana prison is using solar power to provide hot water for inmate showers, and a state official says county jails should consider doing the same.

The Wabash Valley Correctional Facility about 90 miles southwest of Indianapolis has been heating the water in one maximum-security housing unit with solar panels installed on the roof through a project that began in February. The unit houses 200 inmates and has 15 solar panels that measure 4 feet by 10 feet mounted on the roof.

The Tribune-Star reports that the facility is installing meters on the solar-heated system and on one in a different housing unit to compare their use of energy. If the data show a cost savings, the entire facility could be switched to solar-heated water, officials said.

The panels preheat water to 165 degrees, and the system is sized to provide about 40 percent of the thermal energy needed to heat the water.

Prison officials say the new system will save money by reducing the amount of natural gas needed to heat the water.

The new system cost $75,000 but could save $6,000 a year in energy costs, the Department of Correction said. That means it could pay for itself within 15 years.

Kevin Orme, director of construction services for the department, said the system in place would be enough to heat water at a county jail and says they should consider them.

"It does work, and there is grant money out there for counties to use," he said.


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