Jail Becomes Flagship Site for Solar Energy

CASTLE HAYNE, N.C. — The New Hanover County Jail is in the midst of installing solar panels in order to reduce energy costs at the facility.

The project began back in November 2012 and was commissioned in December. The project consists of 40 collectors on top of the jail’s roof, provided by Raleigh, N.C.-based Holocene LLC.

Holocene designed the system and will eventually sell the energy the collectors make to the jail, according to Bill Bondurant, business development manager for Holocene. There is no capital investment by the county, but after five years if they wish to purchase they may have that option. By having solar panels in place, the jail will see a drop in its energy bill in the future.

“The jail is expected to see a minimum savings of 20 percent,” said Bondurant.

The detention center uses a significant amount of water, especially in the preparation of roughly 1,500 meals a day in the kitchen, according to a statement by sergeant Jerry Brewer.

"If we’re heating the water with solar, which is more efficient, than we’re going to save by not having to use the boilers as much," Brewer said.

Holocene was also responsible for manufacturing the Fluid Handling System for the panels, which is used to store energy.

This is the first solar project that Holocene has been involved in with in New Hanover County, however, it may not be the last.

“This is a flagship project for the county. Depending on the success, the county hopes to expand the use of solar on other buildings,” Bondurant said.

Bondurant and Stan Allison, chief financial officer at Holocene, explained that the detention center was the perfect location for the flagship project, considering the jail expects to expand operations to accommodate its growth. In mid-January the jail reported 548 inmates, according to Brewer.

Bondurant explained the site might be home to another installation in the future, although there is no final confirmation on plans to-date. Brewer noted that the sheriff is open to entertain green ideas in the future after reviewing the solar panel installation.