Knox County Detention Center Solar Farm Opens
July 16, 2010
By Nash Armstrong
Knox County took a large step toward becoming more energy efficient Thursday with the opening of a solar panel farm at the Knox County Detention Center.
The farm, which consists of 300 solar panels, five solar storage tanks, 65 concrete pads and more than 6,000 feet of copper piping, is one of the largest solar thermal systems for domestic use in the nation, said Brian Durr, Trane district manager of Tennessee.
"This innovative solution serves as a great example of how government and business can collaborate together to enhance the environment within our community," Durr said during opening ceremonies at the Detention Center. "The county has stepped forward to provide an excellent example of how government can truly make a significant difference in the community."
Trane, Knox County and FLS Energy partnered to make the project a reality. The solar thermal technology will replace natural gas as the primary way to heat water for the detention center's 1,036 inmates.
The $1.88 million project, funded by a U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, is estimated to save Knox County $60,000 annually and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 174 tons annually.
Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale said the money saved from using solar energy will benefit the community in the long run.
"We simply cannot afford to keep spending money to heat and cool and light our buildings and facilities," Ragsdale said. "I'm very proud that we are taking some big steps to save taxpayer dollars."
Completion of the solar panel farm is the first in a series of government-funded projects in Knox County. The county began a collaboration with Trane in August 2009 to "address aging infrastructure and high energy and operating costs."
Ragsdale said after all of the various projects' completions in January 2011 - which consists of renovations and upgrades to 40 facilities, 24 parks and 37 traffic intersections - Knox County will save $6 million annually.
U.S. Department of Energy spokesman Craig Isakow said reducing the country's use of nonrenewable energy sources also is a way to protect the country.
"A billion dollars a day to buy overseas foreign oil undermines national security because we depend on regimes that don't necessarily share our values," Isakow said.
When the projects are completed, Ragsdale said Knox County will be well on its way to becoming free of nonrenewable resources.
"What we'll have is an infrastructure that reduces our carbon footprint, is efficient, is environmentally friendly and will serve our citizens for years and years to come," Ragsdale said. To view this article on the Knox News website, click here.