Kingston green spree expands

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Solar presence grows, mayor glows

By Mike Gibson

The construction has not even begun yet, but Kingston’s solar footprint is growing.
The city’s planned solar farm project is going to be five times the size that was originally proposed.
Now, instead of producing 50 kilowatts of power on a single site, it looks as if the city and its partner, the firm Energy Source Partners, will produce 250 kw of power across a pair of locations.
They will be taking advantage of two separate Tennessee Valley Authority power buy-back programs.
The original program — through Energy Source Partners — called for the city to build a 50-kw solar farm on 1.8 acres at the site of the old water treatment plant on James Ferry Road.
Through TVA’s Green Power program, the city could then sell the power produced to TVA and Rockwood Electric Utility in exchange for credits on its own power bill.
Now, through another, separate program under the umbrella of TVA’s renewable energy programs, Kingston and ESP can build another farm, with a higher power limit.
The Green Power program limited the size of the first solar farm they could build to 50 kw; the new program will allow a 200 kw farm.
All of which will require some shuffling.
Now the site of the original 50-kw farm is being shifted nearby to the current water distribution plant.
And the 200-kw farm will be built on the old site instead.
One of the many upsides of both programs, said Kingston Mayor Troy Beets.  is that they require no expenditures from the city.
ESP is footing construction, and other costs.
Then it will receive the lion’s share of returns until the farms are paid off.
Then Kingston will begin receiving larger returns-on-investment.
And after 20 years, the city has the option to purchase the farms outright.
The city has been trying to  upgrade its image since the TVA coal ash spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant in 2008.
The massive spill was called one of the biggest environmental disasters on record.
“It’s a great project for us to get into, being a green city,” Beets said. “We want to overcome the stigma of being the ‘coal ash city.’ I’m pretty excited, and so is REU, because it’s the biggest solar project they’ve done.”