A unique educational tool is now up and running in town, with the City of Calhoun’s new solar energy array recently beginning operations.

A partnership between Calhoun Utilities, Calhoun City Schools and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, the solar array was installed in front of the city utilities office, 700 West Line St., and started producing power earlier this spring.

“It was a 50/50 grant opportunity through GEFA that made some funds available, paying for half of the project that cost around $98,000 total,” Calhoun Utilities Administrator Larry Vickery said.

The main focus of the city’s solar array will be to educate area students, according to Vickery, and should begin providing learning opportunities as soon as the next school year kicks off.

“We got the city school system involved,” Vickery said. “Students will be able learn about calculating various aspects of solar energy, output, value of usage, and can learn to convert fixed array.

Students will also have the opportunity to learn about adjustable solar energy with one panel that can be moved.

“We added one panel that is adjustable,” Vickery said. “Students can adjust that to see if they values improved if they adjust with the sun’s location in the sky and then they can apply that adjustable versus fixed data.”

Vickery said students will also be able to keep track of how efficiencies in the array might change over time as the data is collected and tracked each school year.

“Over time they’ll be able to use the past information and compare that as the panels degrade over time, and they will degrade,” Vickery said. “They’ll also learn how to put a dollar value on that information by the end of each school year.”

On sunny days the 48 kilowatt array produces enough energy to power about six typical homes, however nearly all of that energy stays somewhere near the utilities building, which is a win for city residents, according to Vickery.

“We meter what’s going up into the system, and most power is probably moving to the utility building, and maybe some to the sewer treatment facility, but no more than 500 feet or so away,” Vickery said. “Everybody will benefit, however slight it is. We’re a not-for-profit utility, so any offsets — however small — benefits city residents.”

Live production statistics and information about the solar array can be viewed on the city’s website cityofcalhoun-ga.com.

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