A Warner Robins company recently installed the largest solar array in Middle Georgia, and plans to sell the energy it generates to electric cooperatives including Flint Energies.
The array covers about an acre next to the Clean Control Corp. plant on Booth Road, where industrial cleaning and odor-eliminating products are manufactured. It began producing power for the electric grid about three weeks ago and is expected to produce enough energy to power 24 homes a year, said Steve Davison, Clean Control president.
Clean Control owns the array and has an agreement to sell the power to Green Power EMC, which provides renewable energy to member EMCs including Flint Energies, Tri-County EMC, Middle Georgia EMC, Little Ocmulgee EMC, Ocmulgee EMC, Upson EMC and Washington EMC.
The 150-kilowatt project is one of the 10 largest in the state, said George Mori, executive vice president of solar development company First Century Energy. First Century is under contract with Green Power EMC to identify potential solar projects and then engineer, build and maintain them.
Mori said First Century also installed a solar project in Athens for Green Power EMC, which together with the Clean Control array produces 265 kilowatts of power a year. First Century is actively trying to finalize another project or two this year that would bring the total for Green Power EMC up to 500 kilowatts.
Jimmy Autry, senior vice president for Flint Energies, said First Century has approached others in the area about hosting a solar project. Mori said his company is in discussions with other possible solar hosts.
Davison said he has recommended to Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen that the city install a solar array on the roof of the new law enforcement center. Davison said he understands some discussions of that possibility have occurred between city officials and Mori.
Mori said First Century is discussing possibilities with potential hosts but declined to name any now.
Autry said Mori asked him to recommend companies that might be interested, and he immediately thought of Clean Control because Davison has a solar array at his own home.
But Davison, whose 32-kilowatt home solar array was installed in 1999, had some problems with his systems ability to operate with his heating and air conditioning units. Initially, when Mori approached him about installing solar at work, he said no.
But due to state and federal grant programs, the solar array at Clean Control essentially will be free to the company, Davison said. Although he took out a loan for the installation, that money will be reimbursed through the state and federal grants within the next few months, he said.
And Davison expects Clean Control to receive about $3,000 a month from the sale of the energy, which will cover 90 percent to 95 percent of the plants own energy costs.
Im not some green fanatic, Davison said. But things that make sense, make sense. Free energy? OK.
Plus, it helps the company market its products with its biggest sellers, Walmart and Home Depot, Davison said.
In 2007, Clean Control became the first company in the U.S. to develop a full line of safer consumer cleaning products that was recognized by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Products from its Earth Choice line were developed to have the least hazardous ingredients possible.
Wal-Mart ranks its suppliers for going above and beyond by taking steps to increase recycled content and reduce their carbon footprint, Davison said. Home Depot puts special tags on products that meet its similar Eco Options requirements. The solar array likely will boost Clean Controls standing in both sustainability programs.
The federal program that provided full reimbursement for the solar purchase and installation ended at the end of 2011, Davison said. But a 50 percent reimbursement is still available for new projects, he said.
Mori said solar projects the size of Clean Controls generally pay for themselves in about five years, but the solar array lasts 25 years.
Although the up-front costs are often the biggest stumbling block in selling solar, materials and installation have become cheaper in recent years as the technology improves, Mori said.
Georgia Power officials stated for years that solar was not practical or cost-effective in Georgia.
But a 2010 study by the University of Arizona ranked Georgia third nationally in solar potential, taking into account both sun exposure and costs.
We get strong sun hours on an average basis across the state, Mori said. Our projects are performing even better than expected.
Autry explained why Flint Energies helps fund green energy projects through Green Power EMC, which developed its first alternative energy project at the Taylor County landfill.
We dont want to be invested all in any one type of power generation, Autry said. It just makes good sense to diversify your portfolio.
To reach writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.