Franklin councilman introduces Virginia Solar City Initiative

Published 9:16 am Friday, September 10, 2010

FRANKLIN—Councilman Greg McLemore says his Virginia Solar City Initiative would create jobs and revenue while also drawing tourists to Franklin.

“It’s a plan to create a dual industry, not be dependent any longer on one industry to support our community,” McLemore said.

The plan would make Franklin “America’s first solar city,” by first partnering with a private investor to open a solar panel manufacturing plant and then outfitting every building in the city to run with solar power. The manufacturing plant would immediately create hundreds of jobs, and outfitting buildings for solar power generation would also stimulate construction, McLemore said.

Buying equipment to outfit thousands of buildings would help keep costs under control, he said. Government stimulus and grant funds would also be used to implement the plan.

City residents would pay for solar systems on their homes on a payment plan dictated by their average monthly electricity bills, McLemore said.

“Once your system is paid off, no more will you have to pay for electricity,” he said. Excess electricity generated in the city would be sold to utilities to bring in revenue for the city and citizens.

As “America’s first solar city,” McLemore said Franklin could entice more “green” companies to set up in the city while taking advantage of its location between the tourist magnets of Williamsburg and Virginia Beach.

“We have an opportunity to create a tourist attraction and at the same time capitalize on a futuristic industry,” he said.

At its last meeting, the City Council voted to forward the solar city plan to Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. for review.

John Smolak, president and chief executive of FSEDI, said Thursday he couldn’t comment on the plan because he hasn’t yet seen a copy.