Co-ops help prisons save energy

Posted on Dec 23 2014 in Co-op Connection

PrisonThanks to the cooperation of a Southern Indiana electric co-op and its co-operative power supplier, the Indiana Department of Correction is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars through energy efficiency improvements — some of which were done with the help of inmates.

“We try to get to know all of our key accounts,” said Renee Campbell, key accounts manager at Hoosier Energy — the Bloomington-based generation and transmission cooperative serving 18 distribution cooperatives in central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois. That’s how the conversation began at the Branchville Correctional Facility, which is served by Southern Indiana Power, a Hoosier Energy distribution co-op based in Tell City.

In 2009, Hoosier Energy audited the prison’s electricity use to begin making improvements. But budget tightening got in the way and the project didn’t proceed until last year.

The late Don Etienne, who at the time the project began was SIP’s manager of member and corporate services, was instrumental in educating Branchville prison officials of their energy-efficient opportunities.

Lighting was one of the biggest changes — the prison has some 3,800 lighting fixtures. “That was their primary benefit from the program,” said Wes McFarland, Hoosier Energy manager of marketing. He noted that lighting improvements accounted for the majority of the $63,500 in rebates paid to the state.

Eighty-one 400-watt perimeter fence lights were replaced at the prison with 160-watt plasma fixtures, which, as an added bonus, were manufactured by an Indiana start-up. Numerous other improvements were made, including retrofitting almost 3,000 old T12 fluorescent fixtures with new low wattage T8 lighting, and swapping incandescent lights with new LEDs and CFLs.

The Branchville project cost just over $10 million but saves $1.3 million annually. With a lifespan of more than 20 years, the equipment pays for itself out of the savings in just over 10 years. The state is also looking at energy improvements to another prison, this one served by WIN Energy REMC, Vincennes.