The Ohio Highway Patrol just began installing 5-watt solar panels in the back windows of the 1,150 Crown Vic cruisers that regularly piss you off in every corner of the state.

And get this: The panels, which cost just $36.99 each, will pretty much pay for themselves in a year and then usher in an always-welcomed savings. Not only will they reduce the number of batteries used per cruiser from about three to just one, but the ever-present and idling troopers around every inopportune bend will now be able to turn their cruisers off.

dcdc/1243984564-solarpanelinstallationshp.jpg“Just by sitting stationary — and there’s more time sitting there just running the engines than ever before — we estimate we can save about $1 million a year,” says OHP Sgt. Karla Taulbee. That’s a 16.4 percent annual savings.

Many environmental advancements — like buying a hybrid or installing solar panels or turbines — cost a lot more up front, with stark savings accruing over a drawn-out period. “We all want to go to hybrid vehicles for the fleet,” says Ward 11 Councilman Mike Polensek, “but they cost more. To go green costs more out of the gate.”

But sometimes not. Many times, like with green building or recycling measures, such an investment is cheaper right off the bat. So we’re wondering: Will Cleveland pull out its pockets and pout again this time?

Maybe not. Ward 17 Councilman Matt Zone asked to have information about the OHP solar panels forwarded to him on Tuesday, in advance of Wednesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting at 10 a.m. On the table will be an ordinance that Zone has proposed to ban the incessant idling of city and civilian vehicles on Cleveland streets. Not only would the new law cut costs, but keep the seagulls from graying. And the solar panels could make the law even more tenable to police and fire, who’d like to use their equipment when they need it, whether the engine’s running or not. — Dan Harkins

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