SYLACAUGA, Ala. – The Sylacauga Utilities Board solar research project is officially-official as the solar field was dedicated to SUB Tuesday.
The Sylacauga Utilities Board, and its supplier of power – Alabama Municipal Electric Authority – began the process of constructing the project in July and finished in August.
The $1 million, .33 acre project featuring four rows of 40 solar panels sits on W. Highland Ave., just off of Old Birmingham Hwy. The panels are southwestern-facing to pick up the afternoon light.
“AMEA is paying the full cost and we’re providing this research facility,” said AMEA President and CEO Fred Clark. “With sun fully shining these 160 panels could power 20 homes.”
The big push for renewable is desirable according to Clark, and Dale Baker, formerly the general manager of SUB and now on the AMEA board said new industries are always looking for ways cities are working to achieve renewable and clean energy capabilities.
While this is new for Sylacauga, many other cities in the state are toying with the idea of solar energy. Many other AMEA members already have small scale solar energy research projects including Dothan, Luverne, Opelika and Tuskeegee.
In all, AMEA has 11 member cities and all will eventually have solar projects. Once all member cities have projects, each will be able to compare data and conclude if solar and renewable energy will have a high enough return on investment to become a real energy solution.
“If this could be economical, which we are researching to understand better, renewable energy would be preferable over any other source of energy – because the fuel is free,” Clark explained. “What’s not free is the plant.”
Actually having a solar field to power the city of Sylacauga almost seems like a figment of someone’s imagination at this point. SUB General Manager Mitch Miller explained SUB would have to acquire 400 acres of land to build enough panels to power Sylacauga strictly with solar energy. He also told SylacaugaNews.com there is no timetable on how much data and how ling data will need to be collected for all entities to tell if solar is the way to go.
Sylacauga Mayor Jim Heigl is excited about the new facility. “It’s very exciting and important for Sylacauga to look into the future,” Heigl said. “Solar may be our future here in Sylacauga.”