Solar Panels Added to Chilhowee Park's Jacob Building

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Solar Panels Added to Chilhowee Park's Jacob Building

Posted: 10/21/2014
October 21, 2014 - A new 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array added to the roof of the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park will offset greenhouse gas emissions by 50 tons per year - the equivalent of planting 1,185 trees.

The Jacob Building is the fifth City-owned facility to which solar energy-producing panels have been added. The new solar array increases the total solar capacity on City properties to 197 kW at any given time.

Besides offsetting greenhouse gases, the solar panels at City-owned facilities will produce 261,000 kW hours of energy a year - or nearly enough electricity to power 22 average-sized Knoxville homes each year.

And the green upgrades come with no capital investment by the City. Like previous solar additions, the Jacob Building project was financed through an innovative public-private partnership that uses third-party financing. Under this arrangement, the City acts as a host property for the solar array, which is owned, paid for, installed, operated and maintained by a private solar developer. The electricity is sold to TVA through the Green Power Providers program, and the City shares the revenue with the solar developer.

Because the solar array is privately owned, the solar developer can benefit from federal tax incentives, which help make the investment cost-effective.

"This type of innovative financing structure allows us to advance the City's sustainability goals and promote our local renewable energy economy without incurring costs to taxpayers or taking on any financial or performance risk," Mayor Madeline Rogero said.

The City has solar installations located on five City properties: the Knoxville Convention Center, the Knoxville Station Transit Center, the Market Square Garage, the Civic Coliseum Garage and now the Jacob Building.

The move toward solar power at City properties started five years ago with the Knoxville Convention Center.

In 2009, the City of Knoxville, along with various federal and local partners, used a similar third-party financing model to install a 93 kW third-party-owned solar photovoltaic array on the Convention Center roof. The City allocated funds from a Department of Energy American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to develop the model and cover a portion of the capital investment.

Because the costs of solar power have fallen dramatically, no City investment was required for the Jacob Building project.

The City's take-away from the initial project five years ago was that partnering with a third party was a good strategy, because there's no financial risk to the City

"We were successful in using this type of third-party financing model at the Convention Center, so we wanted to replicate that success," Mayor Rogero said. "We like this type of financing arrangement because it requires no financial investment by the City and transfers financial, technical and performance risks to the private market."

The City issued a Request for Proposals in 2013 for the Jacob Building project. The winning proposal was submitted by ARiES Energy, a local solar installation company, in partnership with Wayne Wykoff, a local attorney who wanted to invest in solar. ARiES Energy designed and installed the Jacob Building array, and Wykoff financed all project costs and will own the solar array.

During the term of the 20-year contract, the City will lease a portion of the roof of the Jacob Building to Wykoff for operation and maintenance of the solar array. Wykoff will receive most of the revenue from the electricity that's generated, though the City will receive about $12,000 over the life of the contract.

Chilhowee Park and Exposition Center is an 81-acre East Knoxville multi-use venue owned by the City of Knoxville that includes a three-acre lake, bandstand, a 4,500-seat amphitheater, a 57,100-square-foot exhibition hall, barns, arenas, picnic shelters and a new 13-stall restroom building, which will be open from dawn to dusk daily.