• What: Workers finished installing a 50-kilowatt solar array on the roof of The Johnson Group, a public relations company. The 217 panels each produce 230 watts of power during peak hours, which is fed back into TVA’s grid.
• Companies: The Johnson Group, Tennessee Solar Solutions and Alamo Properties
• Location: The Johnson Group, 436 Market St.
• How it’s green: The panels feed power back into TVA’s grid during peak usage hours, saving an estimated $1,200 per month on the company’s electric bill, and helping to offset heavy demand for electricity in the region.
• Why do it this way? The wind doesn’t blow hard enough in Chattanooga to support a windmill, said Anthony Roden, president of Tennessee Solar Solutions. That leaves solar energy as the most efficient method of on-site power generation.
• What’s the cost: The 217 panels cost Sandy Allison of Alamo Properties just over $212,000 to install. Assuming a $1,200 per month cost reduction, the panels pay for themselves in about 15 years. A $75,000 state grant and a $63,750 federal grant help to offset some of the cost, while a $10,000 to $15,000 grant from Green Spaces helps pay interest on the loan. TVA also kicks in $1,000 when the array is commissioned, and buys the power at 12 cents above the retail rate.
• Advice for others: Roden says that any building owners interested in commissioning a solar array should comparison shop for the best price. It’s also important to act quickly, as state and federal grants run out at the end of 2011, he said.
• How is environmen-talism a part of the business? The idea for the panels originated when The Johnson Group undertook a top-to-bottom review of it’s level of environmental sustainability two years ago. They are part of a larger plan that includes recycling and reducing paper and other waste.
Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...