Workshop to highlight solar energy industry


JASPER — Homeowners, business owners, church leaders, school administrators and government leaders — if you’re interested in learning more about solar energy, a local workshop will be held that will highlight the ever-evolving sun-harnessing technology.

Dubois Strong, the Jasper Chamber of Commerce and the Hoosier Environmental Council will collaboratively host the free presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Jasper Group Event Room 225, located at 225 Clay St.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the HEC, said the gathering will include a discussion about the cost savings that come with utilizing solar energy and will serve to distribute general information about the thriving industry.

“We have a special heart for Southern Indiana because it has the best solar energy potential in the entire state,” Kharbanda said.

He explained that Sheridan Community Schools in rural Central Indiana will save between $4 and $5 million over a 30-year period because of their solar energy implementation. Kharbanda noted that for that school district — and probably others — energy costs are the second-highest operating expense, after teacher salaries.

He stressed that now is an opportune time for homeowners and organizations to invest in the energy source for a couple reasons.

“Basically, we’re entering a period in which it makes increasing sense to install solar from two different perspectives,” he said. “One is that the cost of solar has gone down by 70% over a 10-year period on a per-watt basis.”

The other consideration, Kharbanda explained, is that the average life of a power plant in the state of Indiana is more than a quarter century or more, and those plants will soon be replaced.

“And whatever option that they pursue, you’re replacing an old unit that’s been depreciated with a new unit. And so, there’s a likelihood that there will be an increase in cost of energy,” he said. “So, to the extent that people can power their homes, businesses, churches and schools with solar, they’re hedging against those price increases.”

Kharbanda said Tuesday’s presentation will also focus on the economic opportunity of the solar industry. In Indiana, there are more jobs in solar energy than in coal mining, he said, with at least 100 employers in the solar sector.

“And I think that the more we’ve got businesses, and churches, and schools and homes installing solar in Indiana, the more likely you’re sending a signal to entrepreneurs that Indiana is a really good destination for solar,” Kharbanda said. “And that will then create more jobs in our state.”

Unlike coal plants, the renewable energy systems don’t emit particulate pollution, sulfur dioxide or nitrous oxide. Water pollution is also not discharged.

Kharbanda sees Tuesday’s presentation as an educational opportunity. He wants people to leave with a sense of the technical conditions that make solar an attractive proposition, as well as why current laws and incentives also make it a logical move.

Those interested in attending are encouraged to register online here.

More on