FAYETTEVILLE, Tennessee - Wedged among a subdivision and the former location of Sunchasers Tanning is a 13-acre development that's part of the largest solar project in Tennessee.
Farther south is another of Barry Brown's solar farms, a 5-acre tract with enough solar panels to soon help provide power to Piggly Wiggly, Dairy D'Lite and the other businesses along Huntsville Highway.
The homes in the Park City community south of Fayetteville also will be powered by Brown's solar farms during daylight hours, perhaps as early as Wednesday, when the TVA inspectors are scheduled to arrive.
"We're waiting on TVA to come in and say. 'Flip the switch,' " said Brown, owner of Brown Construction.
When it happens, Brown's four farms on the two sites will be "the largest combined solar project in the state of Tennessee or Alabama," he said.
The project, completed last Wednesday, cost about $11 million, Brown estimated. He said the project involved companies based in China, Germany, Colorado and Virginia, among other places.
About 13,000 solar panels were used at the two sites. The 13-acre solar farm will produce about 3 megawatts of energy, Brown said, and the 5-acre farm will produce one megawatt - all enough to power about 1,000 homes, by his count.
"There is no solar of this magnitude anywhere around here," Brown said.
It took four weeks - Sept. 19 to Oct. 19 - to complete the project, he said.
The panels came from Astronergy of Beijing, China, the inverters from Advanced Energy of Fort Collins, Colo.
Of the panels, Brown said, "If you take one panel, 60 percent of the cost is from materials made in the U.S. and exported to China."
SolAVerde, based in Fort Royal, Va., helped with installation. VisSolis, a German-based company with a location in Franklin, Tenn., was instrumental in engineering and equipment.
To complete the project, about 60 people were employed.
"When you reduce the carbon footprint and employ people, that's a strong statement," Brown said.
The push for solar energy is Brown's statement about how to diversify his company, a move prompted by the uncertain economy.
He decided "clean energy" was the way to diversify. The land owned by Brown and his daughter, Danielle, a computer science student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was the place to develop it.
To finish it in one month, he and his workers put in "14-16-hour days seven days a week, rain or shine," he said.
"In the daylight hours, it (the solar-generated power from the farms) goes out of this place to an underground cable to a Fayetteville public utilities grid connection," Brown said.
The surrounding businesses and residences will use the power until sundown, he said.
"Nothing is stored," he said. "It's used every day. When the sun goes down, this shuts down, and even our equipment will feed off TVA power. And when the sun comes back up, it's self-sustained."
His goal is to build more solar farms in Tennessee and Alabama and to give the United States parity with European countries, where solar power is more common.
"This lets North Alabama experience clean energy," he said. "It will help promote future opportunities here."http://blog.al.com/huntsville-times-business/2011/10/in_fayetteville_tenn_theyre_wa.html