Solar Panel display coming to Foley

By Jessica Vaughn / jessica@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/18/18

FOLEY – The idea of a solar panel display was first brought before Foley council in summer 2017, and is now becoming a reality. As soon as September, an array could be present on the intersection …

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Solar Panel display coming to Foley

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FOLEY – The idea of a solar panel display was first brought before Foley council in summer 2017, and is now becoming a reality. As soon as September, an array could be present on the intersection of Section Street and Highway 59.

“AMEA is Riviera’s power suppliers, and they’re interested in installing a 50kw solar array right here in Foley, by the Rose Trail,” said Operations Manager at Riviera Utilities James Wallace. “It’s a 96 by 115 parcel on the overall parcel that the city owns there.”

While it will be disconnected from the Rose Trail, it will be in a position where walkers and bikers can view the solar array. It will also be visible to passersby on the road.

“We want to use it as an educational tool to show people how solar array works in our area, different types of outputs that they’ll get, and what they can expect from it,” Wallace said.

The array will be fenced in and also incorporate landscaping similar to that found at the Foley Dog Park. The city and Riviera Utilities hope to make the display a great place for families and students to come to learn about the benefits of solar power and to better understand how it works. Riviera officials have expressed interest in creating a website where individuals could view the actual power generated from the array.

“AMEA will also put a sign up that says, ‘Community Solar’ and give people some information on what it’s for,” Wallace said. “That’s why we picked the Rose Trail, so that as people are walking by they can get information on the display and go to the website and ask Riviera what it’s for. It will be completely accessible to the public.”

The city council hopes that students can go to the solar array for educational purposes, expressing support of parking being placed near the site to make it even more accessible.

“We left some money in our budget to be able to come back later and do enhancements to the array, in conjunction with what council thinks, like parking,” said Riviera CEO Tom DeBell.

The solar panel array will be able to power approximately two to four homes, and may possibly charge some cars in the future.

“There’s some opportunities that I see down the road,” said DeBell. “For example, maybe we want to put in a vehicle charging station, similar to what we did at the Dog Park with the charging bench.”

The council was supportive of the suggestion, stating a desire to see parking and charging stations come to the display in the future.

“I think this is a good demonstration project to let people know how it works and get school kids involved,” said councilman Ralph Hellmich. “It will be a good learning experience for Riviera on how solar is integrating into their systems, because sooner or later there’s going to be people putting solar in their homes when it becomes more economical.”

The contractors at AMEA who will be placing the solar array have done approximately four to five previously, and the design and plans are completed. Now with the council’s approval, DeBell believes it will take a month or even less for the solar panels to be up and ready for the public to view.