Upson County may soon be home to a solar farm, if the site, located off of Highway 36 across from the American Process bio-refinery plant and behind Chief Manufacturing, is selected to be part of Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative. The Thomaston-Upson Industrial Development Authority met with representatives of Inman Solar, an Atlanta-based company which specializes in solar powered systems, at their regular monthly board meeting held last week. After a short presentation and discussion, the TUIDA entered into an agreement for the company to purchase the nine-acre tract for $5,000 per acre, contingent on being picked for the program. All possible sites interested in participating in the program are entered into a state-wide lottery and the winners will be picked by Georgia Power in the next three months. According to Inman Solar owner Steve Chiariello, the estimated total investment over the next 25 years would be $1.5 million.
Senior Project manager Chris Cates told the board about the basis behind the initiative, noting that in order to develop a solar farm for this program, the farm has to be located next to a large power user. The amount of solar power generated also has to be equal to the amount used by the power user next door.
“For this project, the bio-refinery (American Process) would be the sponsor,” said Cates. “That means, we are going to base the size of the solar farm on the amount of power they are using. They are using a fairly significant amount, near one megawatt.”
By being a sponsor, American Process will be able to legitimately market their plant as a 100 percent solar powered facility, which Cates noted is an inexpensive way to be a green marked company. The power collected through the farm will all be sold directly to Georgia Power and then go out on the power grid to be distributed. Cates also noted in addition to bringing in steady tax revenue for the next 25 years, having a solar farm can also be a beneficial marketing tool for the community.
Inman Solar has built 12 other solar farms of this size throughout the state and Cates noted they did an identical project to the one proposed for Upson County in Stewart County.
After a short discussion, TUIDA Chairman Billy Johnston made a proposal to the two gentlemen for the company to purchase the land contingent on it being picked in the lottery for the program.
“We are not particularly interested in a long term lease and don’t really want to break the tract up, which is plus or minus nine acres,” said Johnston. “We came up with the figure of $5,000 per acre.”
Mr. Chiariello agreed those terms would be acceptable and stated he will get back with the TUIDA to finalize the details should the location be selected in the lottery. He added they expect to hear back from Georgia Power within the next three months on the matter.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1