The local manufacturer of residential cooking appliances recently completed construction of a massive solar array to generate renewable energy in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Generation Partners Program. The project is by far the largest solar project in the community and will generate up to 250,000 kilowatts of renewable energy, enough to provide energy to 50 homes.
This is the community’s second solar array constructed over the past two years, but the 200-kilowatt project dwarfs an earlier 21-kilowatt project constructed at Cleveland High School’s Max R. Carroll Science Wing.
Brown Stove Executive Vice President Matthew Brown said the company’s management team has been considering such a project since last summer.
“We had some property on the south side which we didn’t know what to do with (after giving the city a parcel for a detention pond),” he said.
Brown Stove entered into a 10-year contract with TVA for the project, and contracted with Lawson Electric of Chattanooga for construction. The project was completed at the end of March and is now in operation. “We will be selling 100 percent of the renewable energy back to TVA,” Brown said.
Company management said it will take less than 10 years to recoup its investment for the solar array.
The energy farm is located to the south of the Brown Stove plant on a 5-acre tract. The eight rows of 868 solar panels take up just over 2 acres of the property, is located on an energy strategic elevation, and does not interfere with any of the company’s regular activities.
Brown said the energy operation is providing renewable energy to the Cleveland grid, which includes many of the homes and other structures in the immediate area surrounding Brown Stove Works. He said the company’s management is well pleased with the project to date, but said it is still too early to have a lot of numbers.
Paul Ramsey, energy supervisor for Cleveland city schools, said the 21-kilowatt array at Cleveland High’s science wing has generated monthly credit of $5,742 for solar energy in its first 10 months. Monthly credits range from $377 to a high of $778 during this period. It began operation in July 2011. The solar panels have generated 1,700 to 3,500 kilowatts during this period, a total of 26,300 kilowatts.
The Brown Stove Works array is 10 times the size of the CHS station.
“Brown Stove Works is pleased to be able to participate in a program that generates clean, sustainable energy for our community and we’re fortunate to partner with Lawson Electric and the Tennessee Valley Authority on this project,” Brown said.
Even with the apparent success of the company’s solar farm, Brown said the company’s management team continues to be asked if solar generation can work for homeowners or other small operations.
“From what we’ve learned, the cost outweighs the expense (for smaller needs) ... at this time,” he said. “While I hope the cost of solar energy comes down, to make it cost effective (for home use) it does not appear to be feasible without an economic incentive (a place to sell the renewable power).”
The TVA program, with which Brown Stove Works has enrolled, is rapidly changing. The Generation Partners Program began in 2003 and was generally located in rural areas across the Tennessee Valley. TVA has now switched to the Green Power Providers Program and made drastic changes to the criteria.
The Green Power Program limits solar arrays to 50 kilowatts.
Brown Stove enrolled in the program prior to these changes, enabling the company to construct the 200-kilowatt operation. Many other companies also took advantage of this opportunity.
“These changes in the program are significant,” said Cleveland Utilities President Tom Wheeler.
The federal agency reports there are 722 Generation Partners projects totaling 33 megawatts of renewable energy generation. There are an estimated 472 more projects that have been approved and are in various stages of completion, representing the potential for an additional 76 megawatts of generation.
The Brown Stove Works project is one of the final applicants approved under the Partners criteria. If it had been delayed, it may have only qualified for 50 kilowatts.
Andrew Orman, project manager for Lawson Electric, said in a press release, “It has been a real pleasure working with the people at Brown Stove Works. I’m proud to say that they are now the owner of the largest solar array in the area.”
Warranteed for 25 years, the solar operation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4,500 metric tons, equivalent to planting 180,000 trees.
Brown Stoves Work Inc. has manufactured cooking appliances in Cleveland for more than 75 years. The company is located at 1422 Carolina Ave. Harrison Brown is the longtime president of the company, while his son, Matthew, is executive vice president.