Ohio River towns see solar and electric vehicle chargers as an opportunity

Belpre (population 6,400) named “Belle Prairie” by early French settlers has made technology that’s available today a part of its strategy for the future. Not far from US-50 and I-77, Mayor Mike Lorentz recognized that electric car drivers will sometimes plan trips around public chargers. “We wanted to make [Belpre] a destination,” Lorentz said. The chargers are located near a walking track that overlooks the Ohio River and playgrounds.

The city regularly participates in the America in Bloom, a competition with framework for improving quality of life in communities. Belpre saw public chargers as a great way to enhance the quality of life for the community as part of their ongoing participation in the program.

Neighboring Marietta (population 13,600) had recently deployed electric chargers in its historic downtown. City engineers were able to share some of the plans to help save cost. Local solar installer Pickering Energy Solutions helped with finding grant funding in support of both projects.

Lorenz determined that it didn’t make sense to charge users of the car chargers.  “It would cost more to pay our staff to empty the meter then the money we would collect for the electricity being used.”  The mayor likened plugging in electric cars in the park to people plugging a crock pot into a shelter house.  He wants people to use the facilities and sees car chargers as another opportunity.

Ten years ago, Belpre installed solar on its city building with Third Sun Solar creating one of the state’s first solar powered police stations. Plans are now in the works to do solar on the city’s fire station. “If we can afford it, there has to be some solar efforts in this part of the country.” Increasingly, local governments are seeing projects like these as necessary investments in city infrastructure and irresponsible not to make the decision to save money through solar. Area residents can also go solar or have an EV charger installed through the Appalachian Ohio Solar and EV Charger Co-op open for participants now.

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