Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist, Aim
North Vernon is embracing alternative energy in a big way – and setting a new precedent.
The city is believed to be the first in Indiana to implement solar and LED technology across its municipal sites, Mayor Mike Ochs said.
The project will equip each of the city’s facilities, including the airport, City Hall and police and fire stations, with LED lighting. Most of the 49 municipally-owned locations also will include solar.
“We can save a ton of money by going solar,” Ochs said of the city’s partnership with energy innovation firm Johnson-Melloh Solutions. “This is what’s going to be so great about it. It’s going to be such a big savings.”
The city hopes to complete its conversion to solar by the end of the year. Already, the Jennings County Public Library is equipped with solar panels, LED and an energy-efficient heating and air conditioning system. Those improvements served as a catalyst for the city-wide project. At the library, the technology has led to massive reductions in its energy bill, from about $40,000 a year to less than $2,000.
An innovative financing plan backs the project. The city won’t have to make its first payment on the technology for 18 months, well after North Vernon is reaping savings from the alternative energy.
Among other projects, the city is in the beginning phases of planning another park, which is envisioned to feature pollinator and walking gardens and an amphitheater. North Vernon also recently constructed a new farmers’ market shelter with the help of private donations, and is wrapping up its projects through the Stellar Communities program. The city was among the first to receive the state designation and is completing a trail project.
Next, Ochs is turning his attention to filling downtown storefronts and plans to start an arts council.
“We just toured downtown New Albany to see what they have done,” he said, “and we’d like to get a Main Street program going to get things started here.”
With solar technology and other positive changes, progress is happening quickly in the city. It’s a welcome trend, leading Ochs to tell his residents “Hang on, North Vernon!”