Tennessee's largest health insurer installing city's largest solar array

Tennessee's largest health insurer installing city's largest solar array

September 9th, 2011 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Joey Casebier, left, and Brice Goin of Sustainable Future install photovoltaic panels on the roof of the BlueCross BlueShield Gateway Building in downtown Chattanooga on Thursday. The installation will be the largest solar energy project yet in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

BlueCross BlueShield is turning to the sun to improve its own environmental and fiscal health at one of its downtown Chattanooga buildings.

The state's biggest health insurer is adding Chattanooga's biggest solar energy system to the roof of the Gateway Building on West M.L. King Boulevard. The banks of solar panels being installed this week by the Knoxville-based Sustainable Future LLC eventually will cover nearly all of the roof of the building and help cut the company's electric bill by an estimated $53,068 a year.

"We were already committed to a green vision, which made the choice to add solar easy," said Dan Jacobson, vice president of properties and corporate services for BlueCross. "With our focus on efficient operations and environmental sustainability, it is the right direction for us."

The $915,000 solar installation is capable of generating 198.24 kilowatts of electricity and is projected to generate an average 241,217 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year.

But BlueCross will only have to spend about $210,000 of its own money on the project. The Tennessee Solar Institute, which is funded with federal stimulus dollars, is providing a $243,240 grant to BlueCross. The insurer also is taking advantage of other federal and state tax credits and assistance for renewable energy projects, BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Danielson said.

Statewide, the Tennessee Solar Institute has funded 125 solar installation projects. The BlueCross project is the fourth biggest in the state and was accepted only after some of the initial projects selected by the Solar Institute in the first round of its solar grants failed to go forward, Solar Institute communications manager Chris Davis said.

The Solar Institute has funded 11 solar energy projects in Hamilton County, and more are expected to be announced soon in the institute's second round of funding.

Last year, BlueCross also achieved Gold status in the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Efficiency Design, certification for its corporate campus atop Cameron Hill.

Connect with the Times Free Press on Facebook