Franklin may add second solar array

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

— A year after installing the city’s first solar panel array, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and city aldermen today will discuss adding a second, even bigger solar array that would generate 1 megawatt of electricity to be sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

If approved, the new solar array would deepen the city’s commitment to selling solar-generated electricity and create more revenue from unused city property without Franklin spending any cash of its own.

One megawatt — or 1 million watts — can power up to 1,000 typical homes, according to industry estimates.

“What’s wrong with saving money and using less power?” Moore asked. “That makes sense to me and it’s on property we have no obligation to maintain.”

Last year, Franklin leased part of an empty sludge field near its sewer plant off Claude Yates Drive to Nashville-based Energy Source Partners, which paid about $1 million to install 940 solar panels on the land. Those panels, which generate about 200 kilowatts, capture sun rays and convert them to electricity, which is then resold.

Now, Energy Source Partners is proposing to spend $2.6 million on the new, larger array that would be located on a 3-acre sludge field site near Mack Hatcher Parkway. Energy Source Partners and Franklin city officials have been discussing the new, larger solar array since last year.

As part of the arrangement, Energy Source Partners initially receives most of the money from the sale of the electricity, though eventually Franklin will receive the lion’s share. Through July this year, the current solar panels have generated more than $76,000, yielding $15,377 to Franklin.

Over the course of the proposed 20-year contract, the 1 megawatt panels would generate $165,000 for Franklin by the 10th year of the program and about $800,000 from years 10 to 20.

The key to the program was being included in a TVA program to buy solar-generated electricity and the lowered cost of solar equipment, Moore said.

“Long term, we’re still making money on property we’re not using,” Moore said. “We’re able to address one of the challenges in our community, which is the high cost of electricity.”

Franklin was the first Williamson County city to have a solar array on its property and only the second Tennessee city to create a public/private partnership arrangement to establish the project. Knoxville was the first.

Energy Source officials could not be reached for comment.

Contact Kevin Walters at 615-771-5472.