There Is No Such Thing as a Solar Ash Spill

Guest Blog | April 3, 2013 | Coal, Energy Policy, Solar
Although it has been over four years since more than a billion tons of coal ash were dumped on the small town of Kingston, TN, the city is still working to clean up both its river and its image.  As part of that image cleaning effort, the city of Kingston recently approved a contract for construction of a 50 kW solar farm at the city’s water treatment plant.  The plant will be sited on 1.8 acres of public land and is expected to be operational by mid-2013.  The city is also considering installing a 200 kW solar farm down the road from the water treatment plant.  Along with the solar panels the city is also investing in energy conservation measures, like installing modern HVAC systems in its library and community center to reduce energy consumption.

The Kingston solar panel installation would differ from other East Tennessee solar projects because, in this instance, the city does not have to bear any upfront costs for the project.  The 50 kW project is being designed by Energy Source Partners, who will also pay for the project’s construction and the costs associated with maintaining the panels.  The company will receive returns on its investment by selling power to TVA at a small premium.  The city of Kingston will receive 10 percent of the premium proceeds until the project is amortized – then the city’s share will increase to 40%.  Eventually, the city will have the option of either buying the solar array and selling the power back to TVA to earn credit on the city’s power bill or extending the contract with Energy Source Partners.

The city said it will take 6 months to construct the 50 kW project.  The 200 kW proposed solar farm, which would be located at the site of the former Kingston water treatment plant, is awaiting final TVA approval before the city can move forward on that project.  Troy Beets, the current mayor of Kingston, is a strong proponent of the solar panel installations and, in a local news article, explained that embracing cleaner forms of energy is an important step towards changing public perception of Kingston.

“I think this lets people see that Kingston is a progressive city.  We’re ready to go into the future. We’re not that little scruffy town that was destroyed by an ash spill, and we never were.  But, that was the perception by a lot of people.” – Troy Beets, Mayor of Kingston

For a city that has known is share of bad news in years past, we join Kingston in its excitement and applaud its efforts to move towards a clean energy future.  Hopefully, Kingston will continue to embrace clean energy options that will help the city lower its carbon footprint and decrease its dependence on dirtier forms of energy, like that produced by the Kingston Fossil Plant.  TVA was recently found liable for its negligent operation of the Kingston plant that led to the 2008 Kingston coal ash disaster, a fact that does little to comfort those who lost their homes and properties as a result of the spill.

Coal power comes with a terrible price tag – and as the residents of Kingston know all too well – those who live in the shadows of coal plants are usually the ones who must pay the heaviest price.


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