New energy sources to save county money
By Robert Herrington
Hamilton County is discussing various ways to implement new energy alternatives to become more efficient and save taxpayers money.
Steve Wood, Hamilton County buildings and grounds supervisor, said the plan to begin mixing the county’s transportation fleet with compressed natural gas vehicles will go before the Hamilton County Commissioners on April 14. The initial plan is for 30 vehicles to have the new engines.
“We’ll start off slow. We’ve reduced the amount of vehicles,” Wood said.
Wood said the vehicles are basic pickup trucks and cars and run on regular gasoline and natural gas. They will not include public safety vehicles at this point. While the county does not pay taxes, gasoline prices are still approximately $3.55 per gallon.
“The worst case scenario is 80 cents per gallon for natural gas. We anticipate 73 cents per gallon,” Wood said.
For a dozen vehicles, Wood said the savings could be $30,000 to $45,000 a year in fuel savings.
“We’re training people to use it correctly,” he said, adding the savings depends on vehicle, gas mileage and use.
To implement the new vehicles, the county will have to build a new fueling station which Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said may have countywide effects of additional savings.
“It gives local schools the chance to demo (compressed natural gas vehicles) and have a place to fill up,” he said.
In the discussion phase is a solar panel project similar to the one at the Indianapolis International Airport.
The original idea was a $13 million investment to install the panels on the top of the courthouse, jail, 4-H fairgrounds and other county buildings. Heirbrandt said that project had a projected $33 million energy cost savings during 25 years.
“We’ve significantly scaled down,” he said. “The (Hamilton County) council is involved and will provide input on what they think we should go with for this project … We’re at the right size for the biggest bang for the buck.”
The new proposal is to utilize the vacant space around one of the county’s new 911 towers adjacent to Ind. 37.
“One major field will save a lot of money but gives us a test plot to work off of,” Heirbrandt said, adding that in addition to becoming a leader in sustainable energy initiatives, the environmental benefit is the same as planting thousands of acres of trees. “There’s nothing we can do with the land because of the tower.”
Heirbrandt said the estimated cost is $4.5 million with an anticipated net savings of $7.5 million after debt repayment, operating and maintenance costs and insurance costs.
“The simple payback is 10 years,” he said.
Wood said the county is expecting 35 to 40 percent electrical inflation costs by 2020.
“One hundred percent of kilowatts per hour consumption by Hamilton County Juvenile Service Center will be covered by solar energy,” he said.