Sentinx LLC, a consultant group that assists municipalities in “going green,” first identified Gordon County as a potential solar farm location last year.
“We identified Harris Beamer as a place to implement a solar farm. And we identified Gordon County as an area that could use grant funds to facilitate that program,” said Jeff Stubbs, senior project manager for Sentinx.
According to County Administrator, Randy Dowling, the company chose Gordon County because of its location and the fact that the county already owns the Harris-Beamer landfill.
Dowling said Sentinx plans to use federal stimulus dollars to fund part of the project. The county could be eligible for a $300,000 energy efficiency block grant.
“Sentinx did all the research and grant writing for free,” said Dowling.
But if the project does receive grant funds, and is approved by the county Board of Commissioners, Sentinx would benefit from it financially.
“We are like any other contractor that would be hired by the county,” said Stubbs.
The county will not know if they will receive any funds until March, and then the project could take two years to complete.
“The time frame is dependent on funding and investors,” said Stubbs.
The company hopes to bring in several investors to complete the project since the potential $300,000 in stimulus funds would not be enough to create a solar farm that would power the average size neighborhood.
Stubbs declined to give details on potential investors.
“We have a few considering, and they are pretty excited,” he said.
The solar farm would begin at 40 kilowatts, and eventually grow to two megawatts, Stubbs said.
The landfill hasn’t been used in several decades, since the county purchased it in the 1970’s. Stubbs said if the solar farm is built it would be both a revenue builder and a tourism attraction for the county.
“There aren’t many states in the southeast that have solar farms. Georgia would be among the first,” he said.
“This is pretty neat forward thinking. It is innovative thinking, and we would be the first,” said Dowling.
The county would already have a built in client once the solar farm “hit the grid.” By law North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation is required to purchase any electricity produced within their region.
According to Laura Sparks, director of marketing and communications for NGEMC, the company would purchase the energy, up to one megawatt worth, for $.12 above the retail rate.
Sparks said that the solar farm would initially power only four homes. However, if the grid moves to a larger megawatt format, it would power more homes. One megawatt would power about 100 homes.
Stubbs said the county could see about $10,000 - $15,000 in annual profit, but Dowling said it was closer to $7,000 - $8,000.
“We want to recycle a wasteland into clean energy,” Stubbs said.
“That is an exciting concept,” Dowling said.
Before county could receive any stimulus funds, Sentinx will need to file a report with the Environmental Protection Division, a step Stubbs said the company has already made.
“We are doing what needs to be done to make a Georgia a clean energy state,” Stubbs said.
The solar farm would run over 35 acres of land, making it one of the largest in the southeast.