New Indiana solar projects save costs, connect communities

New solar projects are popping up around Indiana, thanks to the Solar Uniting Neighbors Grant Program.

By Mary Kuhlman

Grant money is helping to spark new solar projects around Indiana.

The Solar Uniting Neighbors grant program is awarding more than $300,000 to a diverse group of businesses and organizations.

At the Youth Opportunity Center in Muncie, a solar array will be installed to off set about 15 percent of utility costs on the center's central facilities building.

Jeff Helm, the center's director of information technology and facilities, says those saved dollars can then be put toward more important things.

"We have to be able to provide the infrastructure investment for the programs that are central to what we do for kids," he says. "There's also an element of just being good stewards because we recognize conservation of energy resources is very, very important on several fronts."

There will be 15 solar projects, including installations at parks, churches, and libraries.

The grant money is made available through the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development. Executive Director Andy Fraizer says energy conservation brings benefits beyond the checkbook.

"Grants like these are an important way that communities can come together around an early win and investment in a new idea but also to build, strengthen relationships and our capacity for solving community problems," he explains.

Lindsay Shipps, a program organizer with Citizens Action Coalition, says with rising energy costs, people in Indiana are realizing the importance of alternative energy.

"The widespread interest in the solar grant monies demonstrates the need for diversified energy options at home or business, and underscores how energy costs require Hoosiers to be innovative," she states.

Purdue University's State Utility Forecasting Group projects a 32 percent increase in electric rates in Indiana over the next decade.

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