North Vernon, Indiana, plans to be state's first 'solar city'

NORTH VERNON, Ind. (WDRB) -- The city of North Vernon is changing things up when it comes to their energy usage, and they’re hoping other cities do the same.  

Mayor Mike Ochs said all of the city’s government buildings will soon be on the map, and off the grid, when it comes the city’s power usage.

The police station, airport, fire department, sewer plant, parks and city hall will be generated during the day on solar power. The city’s 579 street lights will be switched as well.

“We’ll go down to zero usage of electricity during the day, and at night we don’t use anything anyway,” said Ochs, who believes this is the first time a city in Indiana has made such a drastic change. “We have the green space. We have the availability to do this. Not every place has this, and so they have not been able to do this.”

The first step will be to switch all the light bulbs in the city buildings and facilities to LED bulbs.

The project is costing the city $5 million, and Ochs said residents' taxes will not be raised because of the money that will be saved: approximately $3.8 million over 20 years.

Ochs said the city will save $300,000 before the first payment is due which is 18 months from now. The money is on a bank loan of 2.9 percent.

“We are a small town, but I do believe we are more progressive than people give us credit for,” said Holly Burgmeir, manager of Miller’s Tavern, a bar that has been in downtown North Vernon since 1937.

“I think it is awesome," Burgmeir said. "You have got a blend of old and new."

Ochs hopes to get all the solar power up and running by the end of the year.

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