And here I thought that America's high incarceration rate was impeding our economic strength. Looks like it helping to bring down the cost of solar power. If only we had more prisoners, we could be energy independent in no time.
Forget license plates, prisoners are going solar these days. Massachusetts-based Spire announced today that it signed a $54.9 million deal to supply solar cells to a solar module factory located in a federal prison in upstate New York. And Spire is no stranger to prison work — the company installed the photovoltaic solar module factory in the Otisville, N.Y., prison earlier this year.
The contract is with the government-owned Federal Prison Industries, also known as Unicor, which uses prisoners to make products and provide services, mostly for the U.S. government. Spire said that modules manufactured at the prison in Otisville will be sold for use in government installations.
That could mean more than just a few government buildings getting solar panels. “If you consider the military barracks and all those military installations,” Nader Kalkhoran, VP of business development at Spire, told us. “That’s a huge market in itself.”
Spire said this deal could lead to more solar factories going up at other prisons. If that happens, Unicor could end up with a slight advantage over more traditionally-staffed solar module makers. Unicor pays inmates “considerably less” than minimum wage, according to its web site, and as a wholly-owned corporation of the federal government, Unicor is exempt from federal and state income taxes, as well as gross receipts taxes and property taxes.