Solar panel array to help heat, power Ohio prison

Ohio has unveiled a large solar project at a prison aimed at saving $245,000 in annual energy costs while training inmates to install and maintain the panels as a route to future jobs.

The 400 panels at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe will be the primary source for hot water and space heating in eight cell blocks.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction gave tours Wednesday at the prison, 50 miles south of Columbus.

Indianapolis-based Solar America Solutions says the project is the largest non-utility solar installation in North America. It already has offered one inmate an installation job upon his release.

Jails in Tennessee and Utah and prisons in Indiana and Wisconsin are among other correctional facilities with significant solar panel projects.

The company has a specialty working with correction facilities to install solar panels, including training offenders with a program based on an apprenticeship for plumbers.

Ohio says the project will help reduce natural gas usage and greenhouse gas emissions and has a 6.1-year return on investment.