Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Small town thinks big

From SCBIZ, "South Carolina's Media Engine for Economic Growth," an inspiring story about how small-town South Carolina is finding new ways to generate the power it needs to grow (see below).

Bethune, South Carolina -- not too far from where Santee Cooper plans a dirty coal power plant -- went with solar panels to generate clean energy, but of course there are a number of other ways to do it: biomass, wind, and don't forget energy conservation.

If more towns and more homes followed little Bethune's example, our state would be cleaner, healthier and, perhaps most importantly, more economically vibrant... and we wouldn't need another dirty coal plant.

Small town Bethune is going green

Wednesday, 19 March 2008
SCBIZ Daily Staff

BETHUNE – Thanks to a state grant, Bethune will soon be known as a small town that thinks big. Bethune’s Town Hall, which also houses the Police Department, will have 48 solar panels installed on its roof, which will generate about half of the Town Hall’s total electricity.

The grant, entitled "Peacefully Green" was submitted in March 2007 by then Town Councilor Worth Thomasson, which asked for $125,000 "to help our town start a transformation to become a model S.C. Green Community."

Considering the size of the town, population 352, Thomasson was pleased that the state recognized Bethune's desire "to improve our community's health and environment, improve our position to develop economically, and offer a reason for travel and tourism in our area."

After receiving the check in September, Thomasson began looking for solar installation companies, explaining, "It was a long process. We were looking for a turnkey operation, a company that would oversee the entire process. We didn't find

The town eventually found Argand Energy Solutions, and co-founder Erik Lensch has been working with the town for months preparing for the town's transformation next week.

According to Lensch, "The roof of the Town Hall building is wide open and faces south" where it catches the most light. The photovoltaic solar panels will generate 8kW of electricity, which, according to Lensch is enough to power one to two homes for a year. It will generate about half of the town hall's total electricity and will offset approximately 11,400 pounds of CO2 emissions annually.

"It's not a huge amount of electricity, but it works well for their situation. Most of the town hall's power consumption occurs during the day when the offices are open and there are computers, air conditioning, and lights on," said Lensch. "They also did some solar lighting around the town's entrance signs."In addition to powering Town Hall with solar energy, Thomasson says they are converting a deserted two acre little league baseball field into green space for use by the public, with gazebos, a fountain,
and new playground.

The goal, he says, is to create a green space that gives citizens and families a peaceful location for social activities, community involvement, and raises the public's awareness about the benefits of "green communities."

Besides residential conversions, Argand Energy Solutions has been working on larger solar installations like the Freedom Center in Charlotte, NC and the Charleston Battery's Blackbaud Stadium and is excited to be involved in the "Peacefully Green" project for the Town of Bethune.

Says Lensch, "I think it's part of a bigger initiative to put Bethune on the map as a green and renewable energy friendly community," a municipal trend that he hopes to see grow in the future.

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