Tennessee county installs solar farm at detention facility
A new solar farm will soon enable Knox County, Tenn., officials to harvest sunshine to heat water at the county’s 1,036-bed detention facility. Officials anticipate that the new solar thermal system will save $60,000 a year in natural gas expenses and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 174 tons annually.
Operations at the solar thermal installation, one of the nation’s largest for domestic hot water according to Asheville, N.C.-based FLS Energy, one of the contractors on the project, were officially launched on July 15 with a ceremony on the lawn outside the Knox County Detention Facility. The solar hot water installation features 300 solar collectors and produces and stores nearly 14,000 gallons of hot water a day. “The solar farm is an important step forward both fiscally and environmentally,” said Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. “From the cost-savings, we can provide services to our citizens with money we were using to pay energy bills. Environmentally, we are following the advice of our own Knox County Green Team and tapping into alternative energy sources. In this case, that resource is sunshine, which is readily available here in the south.”
Funding for the $1.88 million solar farm was provided through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program. “The [EECBG] program is an important part of Gov. Phil Bredesen’s strategy to invest in cost-effective clean energy resources in Tennessee,” said a statement from Commissioner Matt Kisber of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “The EECBG grants will help Knox County to lead by example in their energy conservation efforts, while reducing energy bills in the short term and supporting Tennessee’s rapidly growing clean energy economy in the long term.”
The solar installation is part of $16.2 million in improvements that the county launched in August 2009 to address aging infrastructure, and high energy and operating costs. The improvements will be completed in January 2011, at which time they are expected to reduce the county’s energy costs an estimated 36 percent by upgrading and enhancing infrastructure in 40 facilities, 24 parks and 37 traffic intersections.
In addition to creating one of the nation’s largest solar farms, the improvements also are expected to add county jobs and significantly reduce the county’s environmental impact while providing a more productive and comfortable environment for county employees and residents who use county services.
Over the 15-year program, the county will save an estimated $29 million, more than covering the program’s $27 million cost. That total cost includes $16.2 million in infrastructure upgrades, $7.5 million in maintenance and repair services, and allotments for debt service and measurement and verification services. The resulting project requires no new tax dollars.
Read more information on the Knox County solar farm.