Commissioners on the budget committee authorized the application for a Clean Tennessee Energy Grant for the installation of solar panels at the Cumberland County Community Complex.

The committee heard a report from Randy Velker of Simple Energy Works of Crossville, who said he would prepare the Tennessee Efficiency Grant application for the county at no charge, providing he were awarded the installation job if the county was approved for the grant. Normally, Velker said he charges approximately $2,000 for applying.

The grants, which are 50 percent, 60 percent or 80 percent, are awarded through the Tennessee Valley Authority/Environmental Protection Agency, TVA/EPA settlement of 2011.

"I'm afraid the county can't do that. We can't guarantee the installation that way. By law this would have to be put out for competitive bid award. Especially for this kind of money," said Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock.

Velker said he would still prepare the application for the county and bid on the project with the rest, according to the specs that were established. He explained the applications for this year were due by March 30 and that another round would be available next year, but would be much more competitive to receive.

Looking at three areas in the county recommended by Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey, Jr., Velker said a 45 kilowatt system could be installed at the Cumberland County Community Complex, which would consist of three 15 kilowatt panels. He said a single 15 kilowatt panel could be installed at the Art Circle Library or two 15 kilowatt panels could be installed at the Cumberland County Justice Center.

"There would be no cost to apply for the grant. I'm not so sure how they'll be awarded, but you could apply for one at a 50 percent rate, one at 60 percent and one at 80 percent (matching) rates. You may only get one," Velker said.

"What does the mayor recommend?" Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner and budget committee chairman asked.

"I would recommend trying for one at 80 percent. Like the Community Complex site," Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey, Jr. said.

"I know several who have installed these and are amazed at the production of energy. This is a unique opportunity right now because this is the first time governmental agencies have been able to apply," Velker said.

"I think we ought to apply for them all and then decide what to go with," Harry Sabine 1st District commissioner said.

Carey explained the way the program with TVA worked was that the solar panels generate energy that is sold back to TVA.

"It'll offset expenses, but if we do it out there at the Complex, that's the lowest bill we get of the three locations, with the largest solar system we could generate more," Carey said.

"How much are we looking at up front costs on these?" Larry Allen, 6th District commissioner asked.

"Roughly $81,000 on a 15 kilowatt system for installation," Velker said.

He also included a handout that listed the cost at approximately $245,074 for the installation of the 44.64 kilowatt system at the Complex. With the award of the Tennessee Efficiency Grant at 80 percent, it would reduce the cost by $196,059. There are also federal tax credits that could be credited as well.

"I'd rather just apply for it and give him the $2,000 for applying for us if we get the grant and accept it. We don't have to do it if we don't want," Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner said.

Velker said he thought the county may have a greater opportunity of being awarded the grant if they applied for one.

Harvel made a motion to have Velker apply for the grant and Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, supported the motion. It was approved unanimously. Harvel added the stipulation to pay Velker the $2,000 for applying if the county is awarded the grant and accepts it.

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