AEC Community Solar Online
Switch was flipped Thursday
By: Dale Gentry – Publisher / THE STANDARD BANNER
Updated: January 17, 2017
Fifth grader Caroline Loveday, with assistance from her dad, Jeremy Loveday, flips the switch Thursday to symbolically bring Appalachian Electric's 9,471 solar panels into the power grid. Jeremy is a lineman for AEC. - DALE GENTRY / THE STANDARD BANNER
A new source of energy is now helping power the homes of Appalachian Electric Cooperative members.
With the symbolic flip of a switch, AEC’s Co-op Community Solar facility went online Thursday morning, providing the first renewable generation resource of power in Appalachian’s history.
New Market Elementary fifth grader Caroline Loveday, the daughter of AEC lineman Jeremy Loveday, had the honor of flipping the switch to officially connect the solar facility to the power grid.
The 1.3 megawatt solar facility will generate enough electricity in a year to power about 130 homes, using 9,471 panels to soak up the sun’s rays. The facility is located along Highway 11E in New Market.
“Today is a milestone in the life of our Co-op,” said Robert Drinnon, Chairman of Appalachian Electric’s board of directors.
“What you see here today is the result of resources leveraged for the good of the AEC membership – a renewable generation facility that will provide benefit and value to our members for years to come.”
Drinnon noted that the solar project was inspired by AEC’s members. “As we received feedback on what our members were interested in, we discovered a significant portion of the members were concerned for our environment and were interested in renewable energy,” he said.
Appalachian Electric General Manager Greg Williams emphasized that the project would not have been possible without a grant and purchase-power agreement through TVA that makes the solar facility self-sustaining – with no impact to members’ power rates.
Co-op Community Solar will “deliver clean, renewable energy to the electric grid, and enable us to continue our strong commitment to sustainability, reliability and environmental stewardship,” Williams added.
The project includes the opportunity for members to partner with AEC and reap the benefits of solar energy by investing in one or more solar panels through a subscription model.
John and Joan Barnhill of Jefferson City were the first residential members to subscribe. John Barnhill said during Thursday’s ceremony that he and his wife considered putting solar panels on their house a few years ago, but a large oak that shades the home proved to be “incompatible” with solar energy production.
When the opportunity came along to participate in AEC’s solar venture, they were pleased to participate.
“Not only does it provide green energy for the Co-op, but it also gives folks like us the opportunity to invest in this project and get some return,” he said.
Williams said subscriptions to Co-op Community Solar were available in three blocks:
• Subscribe Solar, in which a member gets monthly generation credit for an investment in one or more panels;
• Share Solar, providing the opportunity to gift a solar subscription to someone (a nonprofit organization or other member); and
• Support Solar, in which members simply contribute to support growth of sustainable energy, foregoing any personal benefit.
So far, members have taken over 700 solar subscriptions, Williams said. Anyone interested in a solar subscription should contact Appalachian Electric.
Ground was broken on the Community Solar facility on August 1, with an original completion target of October. However, delays in construction and the arrival of some of the equipment pushed back the commissioning ceremony until last week.