Just as apartment building owners are seeing the advantages of installing solar hot water, more and more prisons-especially rural prisons-are also realizing just how liberating solar water heating can be for their state budgets.
Like apartment buildings and hotels, correctional facilities use a tremendous amount of hot water for prisoner showers, laundry facilities, food service, and sanitation.
The most recent prison solar thermal installation in the news comes from the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail authority, which installed Virginia’s largest rooftop solar thermal installation, according to news reports.
The 72 solar thermal collectors with a 5,000 gallon heat storage tank and a pump station with a smart controller will generate 1.78 million BTUs per day and save tax payers between $35,000 and $40,000 per year on propane water heating costs. The project will pay for itself within 10 years and last decades longer.
Solar thermal systems are ideal for offsetting expensive propane systems, which are the default heating solution for prisons that are located far from natural gas heating lines.
However, propane prisons aren’t the only facilities turning to solar hot water. Prisons with natural gas systems are also seeing the value of solar water heating to offset their operating budgets. For example:
- A 500 inmate jail in Frederick County, Maryland is reducing its natural gas consumption by up to 80%.
- Bayfield County Jail in Washburn, Wisconsin was also being liberated from natural gas heating in 2011, with an estimated payback time of 9 years.
- The Wabash Valley Correctional Facility is estimated to save almost $6,000 a year and $300,000 in 30 years with its 15 collector solar water heating system.
- And in Philadelphia, a 248 solar collector system is being installed on top of four prison housing buildings, providing domestic hot water to more than 2,500 inmates.
Financing for many of these systems have been provided by grants by either their state or through a Federal grant program. But as subsidies sunset and natural gas prices and propane prices continue to rise, solar thermal will continue to be a cost effective solution for reducing prison operating expenses.
Free Hot Water also designs and engineers for both propane or natural gas prison water heating systems. Contact us for planning a solar thermal system at your prison facility.