ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is rewarding grants to businesses looking to try their hand at renewable energy, through the Rural Energy for America program. One Limestone County business owner received $250,000 for his $1,000,000 solar panel project.
Buddy Carter owns Midpointe Self Storage at 14586 Midpointe Blvd, Athens. His entire 7-acre business, which includes climate-controlled storage units and a 40-spot RV and boat storage lot, is powered by two 12,000-square-foot solar arrays. The vehicle storage spaces are located directly beneath the panels.
“These are 50-amp hookups which are the largest for motor homes. It’ll run a full motor home, air conditioners and all the power in it,” Carter said.
The business uses the same amount of energy as about 32 homes, which is covered through the panels’ power production, with a majority of the energy produced daily, left over.
“About 75% of that goes back into the grid, which is the electrical grid for TVA and Athens Utilities,” he explained.
In total, the solar arrays make enough energy to cover about 100 homes, but solar is doing more than just lowering Carter’s carbon footprint.
“It’s the equivalent of $3,500 dollars a month in power for us right now, and another great benefit of that is this cost will be fixed for the next 25 years,” Carter said.
Right now, it’s supplemental, because at night they still rely on Athens Utilities for power.
“Right now battery technology is not where it needs to be cost-efficient to store power for nighttime use,” he said. “That technology needs to catch up. We’re not talking next year or in 5 years, we’re probably talking well down the road.”
Despite that, Carter said he still plans to develop a business park on the remaining open 10 of his 17 acres. With three-quarters of his energy going back to the grid already, he’s confident his panels can power any new buildings.
“It’s a good feeling. I like coming out here and looking at the facility and it feels like an accomplishment. We’re proud of it,” he said.