Farfetched plan is worth a look

Published 8:44 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore’s plan to turn Franklin into “America’s first solar city” sounds farfetched, but it deserves consideration.

McLemore, who recently presented his plan to fellow council members, claims his Virginia Solar City Initiative would create jobs and revenue while also drawing tourists to Franklin.

The plan calls for partnering with a private investor — which McLemore says he has — to open a solar panel manufacturing plant and then outfitting every building in the city to run with solar power. He claims the manufacturing plant would create hundreds of jobs and outfitting buildings for solar power generation would also stimulate construction.

McLemore says he would recommend using government stimulus funds and grants to supplement costs.

He also suggested that city residents could pay for solar systems on their homes with a payment plan dictated by their average monthly electricity bills. Once the system is paid for, they would not have to pay for electricity.

He believes a “solar city” would attract “green” companies. McLemore also would like to see the development of solar-powered amusement and water parks, which would bring tourists here.

The question we have is whether this part of Virginia gets enough sunshine to power a “solar city.” In the past, solar power has been more common in the Southwest, where the sun shines more than the East.

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity. Since solar power is intermittent, it must be combined either with storage or other energy sources to provide continuous power. The technology is available.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has all kinds of information online about using solar power in homes and business. There’s also mention of tax credits for using it.

A look on the Internet shows numerous websites with information on installing solar power in Virginia.

So although turning Franklin into “America’s first solar city” sounds farfetched, we commend McLemore for putting forth the plan for discussion.

McLemore says he’s willing to answer residents’ questions concerning his proposal. He can reached at 613-0483 or by e-mail at ward3action@verizon.net.