City of Muncie, Muncie Sanitary District harnessing renewable energy with solar panels
How solar energy works
Solar panels convert sunlight into electrical energy through photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors that concentrate solar radiation.
When the sun shines on PV modules, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells to create electrical charges that flow in a panel’s internal electrical field.
The energy used can be used to generate electricity or stored in lithium batteries or heat storage systems.
Source: US Department of Energy
Fifty-three acres of unused land on 8th Street protrude from concrete that General Motors occupied until 2006. On January 26, 2021, the City of Muncie announced that they would buy this vacant lot and install a solar field.
“The unique combination of size and location of this property makes it ideal for a project that will make Muncie a regional leader in the production of clean, renewable energy,” said Dan Ridenour, Muncie Mayor, in a press release. “[This] positions our community to attract additional investment from companies focused on sustainability. ”
According to the press release, the solar field will be able to generate up to 24.6 million kilowatt hours of energy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, that’s enough electricity to power 2,310 average American households for a year.
The Muncie Sanitary District is also planning to install solar panels at three different lift stations in Muncie that will raise water from sewer systems to higher levels so that it can continue downhill towards a water pollution control facility.
“We have a big one called Jake’s Creek,” said John Barlow, district administrator for Muncie Sanitary District. “We own the package [of land] that it’s on, but we also own some of the unused space out there so we’ll be able to put some solar panels out there. “
The plumbing district will also install solar panels on Kilgore Avenue and at its new location on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“Solar panels were the cheapest,” said Barlow. “They’re pretty easy to install. [There] Not a lot of work needs to be done on the existing infrastructure to change it. “
Barlow said the sanitary district has been dealing with renewable energy for 15 years, but city engineer Brian Stephens-Hotopp helped start the project in 2020. Barlow said the sanitary district staff had conducted evaluations in 2006 but there were installation costs at that point, none of them are in place any longer.
“He’s been researching this with a company called Performance Services,” said Barlow. “We found that we had some opportunities here to really cut electricity budgets at some of our facilities.”
Barlow said the plumbing district is currently unsure when the project will be completed, but the assessments are complete.
Ball State has been using solar energy on campus since the Health Professions Building opened in November 2019.
James Lowe, vice president of facility planning and management, said in an email that the university is installing solar panels on the roof of the building for healthcare professionals and is also adding modules to the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse, which will begin construction in April 2021 will end in autumn.
Lowe also said that Ball State has been using other forms of renewable energy, primarily geothermal, since March 2014. Ball State has the largest ground-source and closed-loop geothermal system in the country, and the university has also planted native vegetation to replace mown grass and is adding hybrid cars to its vehicle fleet.
“The relocation has resulted in savings of over $ 2.5 million a year, a reduction in our carbon footprint by nearly 50 percent and a 100 percent reduction in other coal-burning pollutants,” he said . “This leads to savings, [a] healthier environment and better quality of life. “
Installing solar panels in Muncie will boost business development in the city, Ridenour said.
“My administration has highlighted strong, healthy neighborhoods as building blocks for the revitalization of the city,” said Ridenour. “With this investment, we are making it clear that we are ready and willing to take initiatives that will benefit our residents and create a healthier environment.”
Contact Mackenzie Rupp with comments at [email protected] or on Twitter @ kenzieer18.