Solar panels at conference center go live

Published June 12, 2020

Pictured are Matt Duncan with LightWave Solar, Kelsey Dewald with the Bonnaroo Works Fund, and Rebecca French, general manager of the conference center. 

By Managing Editor, Elena Cawley on Jun 11, 2020 – Updated Jun 26, 2020

The installation of solar panels at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center has been completed.

“(Today, June 11) our solar panels are going live,” said Rebecca French, general manager of the conference center.

The completion of this project has required years-long effort.

“Since taking over management of the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center in December 2015, one of our largest priorities has been working to reduce the fixed cost to keep the conference center operational,” French said. “For the past two years, in addition to fulfilling my regular day-to-day duties managing this facility, I have been working on a project to bring solar power to the MCCCC by writing multiple grant proposals to secure funding, performing maintenance and preparation to our roof to have additional weighted structures added, and by applying for and obtaining permits for LightWave Solar to begin their installation process.”

The solar panels are expected to operate for more than two decades and cut expenses.

“Our system is projected to last for the next 25 years and to offer substantial savings monthly on the MCCCC’s utility bills and can also potentially serve as an additional revenue stream by allowing us to earn money with power generated in excess of what we consume through the TVA’s buyback program,” French said. “Additionally, our project has room to expand at a later time if another investor were to become interested in taking on the rest of the project and enjoying the associated tax savings.”

The entire project was funded by a five-year grant received through partnership with the Bonnaroo Works Fund, according to French.

“While a small loan was required in order to pay for the system, the loan will be paid in full within three years through the yearly grants provided by the Bonnaroo Works Fund,” she said. “Teaching our community and over 42,000 annual visitors about sustainability efforts is a priority that both the foundation and the MCCCC share. As a part of the grant stipulations, a sustainability expo will be held in 2021 at MCCCC to provide a free to the public education piece on efforts to help reduce waste on many platforms.”

French expressed appreciation for the support and partnership that made the initiative possible.

“We are very grateful to both the Bonnaroo Works Fund for this gift and to LightWave Solar for their professionalism while working on this project for the past two years and for their interest in working with MCCCC,” she said.