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Solar Station on Depot Street Almost Built, Should Be Producing Power Tomorrow

This new solar station in downtown Boone should be producing power by the New Year if the inspection goes as planned. Photos by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

Aside from replacing one broken solar panel and the installation of the two electric-vehicle charges, the solar station at the Depot Street parking lot in Downtown Boone is almost complete.

Landon Pennington of Collaborative Solar, one of the private investors and companies participating in the public-private venture, said that if all goes well the inspection of the system should take place tomorrow.

“I suspect that it will pass and [then] it should be producing power tomorrow,” Pennington said.

Landon Pennington of Collaborative Solar poses for a picture during the installation of the solar panels.

This project is a collaboration between the Town of Boone, the nonprofit Climate Voice US and three investors, including Collaborative Solar, the developer of the project. Other private companies involved include licensed electrical contractor Sunvolt Electric and Renewable Energy and Spring Green Building and Design Group, Inc., a licensed general contractor.

Pennington also said that two local citizens – John Prickett and Susan Adams – also contributed to the project.

“They have a shady site and wanted to do something good for the community,” Pennington said.

The system produces a minimum of 5kW. Pennington mentioned that the size of this system is “symbolic” in the sense that it gives a visual of how many panels would be needed to power the average home in the Southeast.

“In the Southeast, we are the largest consumer of power in the U.S. because we heat and cool heavily [in the winter and summer],” Pennington said, stressing that he was speaking in generalities. “We are kind of the worst power consumers and in order to offset about what the average Southeast home uses, you would need this many solar panels.”

Pennington said that after six years, the investors would break even and then make a profit for a few more years before handing the system over to the Town of Boone.

The Boone Town Council authorized $27,000 of funds designated as sustainability funds for the construction, and Climate Voice US, a local nonprofit headed by Harvard Ayers, is/was responsible for providing and installing two electric car charging stations, negotiating with New River Light & Power to bring a 480 volt line to the site, installing the substructure and complete solar PV systems onto the canopy, according to a memorandum of understanding between the town and nonprofit approved by the Boone Town Council in August.

Pennington said that Climate Voice US was the “catalyst” for this project, helping it to become a profitable endeavor by purchasing the renewable energy credits and buying the environmental attributes.

The town meanwhile provided funding for the ground mounted substructure and postholes with concrete and steel – not to exceed $27,000. It will also provide insurance on entire structure and high speed Internet connection for monitoring software, among other bullet points.

“The mission of this project is to educate citizens about solar power and energy use, utilize public money efficiently by triggering significant private funding, pilot a new plan for greater solar adoption in the Boone area, and provide a platform for expedited electric vehicle (EV) adoption,” a release from the town noted when construction began earlier this month.

The Downtown Boone Development Association noted that this will make downtown a destination for electric vehicle owners and the shelter will provide a place shelter and covered meeting area in downtown.

Pennington mentioned that once completed, the shelter will be impervious to rain and that depending on the battery size of an electric vehicle, a person could charge their car as quickly as 20 minutes.

While that’s a bit more than how long it takes to fill up at the gas station, Pennington said that it just amounts to educating people into changing their whole way of thinking. He mentioned that one day there will be charging stations everywhere – at your friend’s house, at the grocery store and, sometime in the spring, in downtown Boone.

“So it’s a cultural change,” Pennington said.