Officials visit for solar tour

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hannah Solar CEO Peter Marte stands in front of the rooftop solar-panel array that helps power operations at Greg Calhoun’s Green Circle Cooler corn-cooling facility.|Brennan Leathers

State and local government officials took a tour of solar-power installations on farms in Decatur and Seminole counties on Monday.

They were learning about how solar panels installed by an Atlanta-area company, Hannah Solar, help run various farming operations.

At Brinson Farm Supply in Brinson, solar panels power a center irrigation pivot, owned by farmer Glenn Heard. Some surplus power generated by the 100-kilowatt solar array is purchased by Georgia Power under contract. Heard also qualified for various state and federal government tax credits, for his use of renewable energy.

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At Circle C Farms, farmer Greg Calhoun uses solar power on the roof of his approximately three-story corn cooler to help provide power during peak hours, such as hot summer days, according to Rick McCaskill, the executive director of the Development Authority of Bainbridge and Decatur County.

“Certain times of the year, farms use tons and tons of energy — they really burn it up,” McCaskill said. “They have their heaviest use at the time of day when the [existing power] grid needs them to not be a big user out there.”

The solar arrays generate DC power, which is consolidated into a large power source and taken to a power inverter, which converts the energy over to AC for use by buildings or farm equipment, said Hannah Solar CEO Peter Marte.

Because it literally covers most of the roof, the 200-kilowatt solar array at Calhoun’s Green Circle Cooler takes away lots of heat from the metal roof, allowing the inside of the building to stay cooler, and in turn, lower the air-conditioning unit costs.

Tommy Dollar’s Dollar Farm Products in Bainbridge uses a 50-kilowatt solar array to power his office complex, helping him to save on his business’ utility bills.

The delegation included Georgia Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, State Sen. John Bulloch, State Rep. Gene Maddox, State Rep. Jay Powell, State Rep. Darlene Taylor, Donalsonville Mayor Joe Burke, local accountant Ward Trulock, and others.

Other stops on the tour were White Oak Pastures, a beef and poultry farm in Bluffton, Ga., which has a solar barn; and the American Peanut Growers Group in Donalsonville, Ga., which has the largest roof-mounted solar array in Georgia on the top of its peanut drying sheds.