Thursday, July 18, 2024
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UC Regional Airport To Explore Solar Panel Prices

The Upper Cumberland Regional Airport will consider the possible addition of solar power sometime in the next year with cost being the big question mark.

Airport Manager Dean Selby said he has seen preliminary federal funding numbers from similar projects. But Selby said even with substantial help, the upfront cost of a project like this would be significant. He said solar panels could offset 100 percent of the airport’s electric bill and eventually pay for itself.

“I think it’s, long term, it’ll be one of those projects that absolutely makes sense,” Selby said. “Just as we can plan it and put it into our capital improvement plans where it flows through without having to forego another project.”

Selby said a feasibility study revealed that rooftop paneling is the most realistic method. Selby said the airport is better off saving its limited ground space for new buildings and airplane hangars. Selby said he believes this project will happen eventually and he plans to discuss it with T-DOT Aeronautics in July.

Selby said the upfront cost has to make sense in the context of the airport’s existing capital improvement plans.

“Our Airport Capital Improvement Plan, that gets redeveloped every year,” Selby said. “And it’s one of the things that’s on the list that we will be discussing next month and where that fits into the priority ranking of not just us, but we also have to compare that with the priority models of the state and of the federal government.”

With the exponential increase in costs since 2020, Selby said the airport has seen budgets gradually fall woefully short of a project’s required cost by the time the project gets to bid. He said solar panels will not be prioritized until it is crystal clear that it makes long-term financial sense.

“I think, you know, anything electrical or any kind of infrastructure stuff, that’s where the brunt of the financial hit has come with inflation, and it’s a challenge to be able to figure out what the projects will cost,” Selby said.

He said no one can deny the environmental positives involved in solar power and it is likely to make sense from an economic standpoint as well, so he is excited to see this project eventually come to fruition.