RICHMOND — St. Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Virginia, is using solar energy to preheat ground water entering its buildings, thus significantly reducing the facility’s reliance on propane.
The solar panel systems are located on the rooftops of the prison’s housing units and kitchen. Cold water flows through the panels and is heated by the sun before entering the internal water supply system. As a result, less propane is required to increase the water temperature to sufficient levels for use in the showers, kitchens and bathrooms.
“Instead of taking cold ground water and sending it to the water heaters, this system is right before the flame and raises the temperature up to somewhere between 120 and 130 degrees,” explains Brian Newbern, Buildings and Grounds Superintendent at St. Brides Correctional Center. Newbern also served as the project manager.
“From day one when this thing turned on, it was saving the state somewhere around $35,000 per year in propane, which is substantial for me. It’s a win-win.”
The solar energy project was 100% grant funded. It was contracted by the Department of General Services in partnership with several state agencies and higher education institutions under the Public-Private Educational Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA). The Virginia Department of Corrections project was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in the amount of $2.3 million.
Funding was authorized in 2010. Installation of the solar panel units was completed in 2012.
Follow this link to get an up- close view of the solar panel systems at St. Brides Correctional Center and hear from Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Brian Newbern:
More information on the VADOC can be found at www.vadoc.virginia.gov.