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Hawkins adding 17 new solar power stations on school facilities

Jeff Bobo • Mar 12, 2013 at 9:34 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Schools is adding 17 new solar power generating stations on school property throughout the county.

There are already roof-mounted solar panels installed at Bulls Gap, Church Hill Intermediate and Clinch School — the first schools in Tennessee to produce solar power as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s “Generation Partnership Program.”

The 17 new solar stations will include six roof-mount sites and 11 ground- mount solar sites on various school campuses and facilities throughout the county.

“When we are finished with Phase II of our Solar Project in late April 2013, we will be able to produce a total of 1,625,000 kWh of electricity each year,” said school maintenance director Bill Shedden. “Enough electricity will be sold back to TVA to run over 150 normal-size households for a year.”

Projected revenue from the 20 solar sites will be $875,000 over a 20-year period, or $43,750 annually in revenue for the school system.

One-time revenue of $1,000 per site will also be earned this year as part of a TVA incentive program, bringing the total revenue for the first year’s solar production to $63,750.

The solar program was initially approved by the Hawkins County Board of Education in September 2011 as a true public-private partnership with the entire $7 million investment to be covered by third-party investors.

That means no investment or net expense by Hawkins County Schools.

The Solar Project for Hawkins County Schools has generated interest among other school systems and organizations as well. There have been several groups that have visited the solar sites, and at least eight other school systems across the state of Tennessee called to discuss solar energy with Shedden.

“I know of at least two school systems in Tennessee that are in the process of moving forward with their own solar installation, and I know two additional systems are very close to signing agreements,” Shedden said.

The project plan and strategy were developed jointly with John Atkins of TerraShares, a Green systems developer based in Morristown.

TerraShares awarded the construction contract to Hannah Solar LLC from Atlanta, which provides engineering, material procurement and personnel to manage construction at all sites.

Hannah Solar was vital in attracting capital from Distributed Solar Holdings, LLC (DISH) of Charlotte, N.C., who acquired the overall project and will own and operate the solar system for the 21-year period of the TVA contract.

Comer Electric Co., also of Morristown is undertaking all electrical installations. Johnson City-based Beeson, Lusk, & Street, Inc. are providing architectural services including roof and structural analyses and certifications.

Holston Electric Cooperative facilitated the approval by TVA and will ensure the solar sites are working properly to generate the power back to the TVA grid.

“All parties have played a vital role in bringing Phase II of our Solar Project to fruition,” Shedden said. “Of course, the projects would not have been possible if not for the full support of the director of schools, Mrs. Charlotte Britton, and each member of the Hawkins County Board of Education. I think the solar projects show the students and all stakeholders in Hawkins County that our director of schools and our school board are looking for unique ways to generate revenue with no cost to the school system or taxpayers, as well as being responsible stewards of the environment.”

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