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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Rock City President & CEO Susan Harris speaks during a Press Conference to announce the installation of a solar-powered arbor pavilion that will reduce energy consumption and enhance sustainability educational opportunities at Rock City. on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

A Lookout Mountain attraction famous for its overlook of seven states is also looking upward to the sun to help power its operation.

Rock City on Friday unveiled a new solar canopy at its entrance designed to capture the sun for electricity generation and offer shade to visitors coming into the nearly 90-year-old complex of trails, restaurants, entertainment and Mother Goose Village. The addition of the solar panels atop a new garden gathering area comes just two weeks before Rock City opens its annual Garden of Lights for the Christmas holidays and should help highlight and educate visitors on the natural appeal and potential of solar energy.

"Guests will be able to see sustainability in action when they visit Rock City," said Susan Harris, president and CEO of See Rock City. "The new solar arbor on our ticket plaza sets the tone beautifully for guests who visit."

Appropriate for its name, Seven States Power Corp. aided in the design and development of the solar arbor at Rock City, where Seven States directors met for their annual meeting Friday. The Rock City solar canopy is similar to the solar canopy and battery storage microgrid that Seven States Power helped install a year ago in front of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as a demonstration project on distributed energy.

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Rock City adds solar canopy to highlight green energy

Seven States, which was spun off from the Chattanooga-based Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, is jointly owned by the 153 municipalities and power cooperatives that distribute TVA power. Seven States is working with local power companies like EPB on solar and other distributed energy projects along with helping to build and connect more than 100 recharging stations to serve the growing number of electric vehicles on the road.

Betsy Kirk McCall, president and CEO of Seven States Power, said Seven States' staff worked with Rock City and EPB on the design and installation of the solar arbor, which will generate about 16,800 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, or enough to power about 40 refrigerators. The solar array installed by Lightwave Solar is relatively small but should pay for itself in power recovery costs over the next decade or so, Harris said.

"We believe it can serve as a blueprint for others across the valley and show what the power of partnerships can do as we all continue to explore new ways to best serve our communities," McCall said.

Such distributed energy generation from solar, wind and battery power is gaining in popularity as their costs drop and the appeal of such renewable energy sources grows. TVA President Jeff Lyash said TVA has given local power companies more flexibility to develop up to 5% of their own generation while working with customers who choose to generate electricity from solar panels or other means through a variety of programs, including TVA's Green Invest program — although TVA has reduced the premium rate it once paid to buy solar- and wind-generated power.

At the new $300 million system operations center TVA is building in Meigs County, there will be a distribution desk to coordinate the exchange of delivery of power with the local power companies and others generating or storing their own power.

Lyash said TVA and its integrated power model remain essential to providing reliable power service throughout its seven-state region.

"I am in favor of distributed resources, and that's what our flexibility program is all about and we continue to encourage for our customers," Lyash said during a visit Friday to the Rock City solar arbor. "But the folks who say you rely entirely upon distributed resources and do away with the rest are not facing reality."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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