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Appearance of solar panels questioned

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lewisburg councilmen continue to show interest in having solar panels in the city's business park on the north side of Mooresville Highway, but there's a difference of opinion on aesthetics.

"I know we want to have people think of us as progressive, but I don't think that's so progressive," Councilman Ronald McRady said during a non-voting workshop discussion in City Hall late last month.

He was referring to the idea of placing a number of solar panels between the highway and developable property in the business park.

Meanwhile, 200 acres might be available, according to Greg Lowe, the city's economic development director.

Leaders of Vis-Solis LLC, a U.S. off-shoot of a German company, visited Lewisburg, indicating it might be a good place for their panels to generate electricity for sale to TVA through the local power distributor. A portion of the money received for the sale of the electricity would be paid to the owners of property where the panels are located.

The Vis-Solis businessmen looked at the city building constructed on a speculative basis in the hope that it might be purchased for a new business. Lowe suggested that the panels be placed on top of the city's spec building, but John Chunn, the contractor who build the structure says it won't support the panels' weight.

Councilman Robin Minor suggested the panels could be placed on raised frames in flood plains.

Responding to McRady, Lowe said, "I know we differ on aesthetics, but I was looking at money and economic development."

Councilmen generally agreed they want to know more about this prospective source of revenue where there's been none, and publicity about Vis-Solis has resulted in calls to City Hall to see if the panels could be located on other properties.