Note: This story was updated at 9:25 a.m. April 29.
A Tennessee solar company and the German Energy Agency, or dena, celebrated their first U.S. solar project Thursday, a 50 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array at Heritage Center in west Oak Ridge.
The array includes seven ground-mounted trackers that are 20 feet high. They each include 28-30 solar panels. The trackers adjust themselves to capture the most sunlight, using two sensors each to adjust from east to west and tilting up and down.
It’s a public-private partnership involving dena and Vis Solis LLC of Franklin, Tenn., a subsidiary of Vis Solis GmbH in Breesen, Germany. Also involved is German manufacturer DEGERenergie.
It’s a $250,000 to $300,000 investment, said Carlos Mayer, Vis Solis chief executive officer.
“We are pleased to welcome such an innovative solar project and international partnership to Oak Ridge, a city with a rich history in energy innovation and leadership,” Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan said. “This solar project further boosts Oak Ridge’s reputation as a cutting-edge science and technology hub that’s open for business.”
The array is built on land not suitable for deep digging and leased from the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee at Heritage Center, the former uranium-enriching K-25 site.
“Vis Solis is using solar energy to turn an otherwise unusable empty plot of land into an income-producing asset for our investors and the community,” Mayer said.
Installation work started last December, and the array was connected to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s electrical grid earlier this month. The solar panels will produce an estimated 40 percent more energy than a traditional ground-mounted system or about 91,000 kilowatt-hours a year, a press release said. That’s equal to the annual energy consumption of about eight average American homes.
The installation at Heritage Center is the first U.S. partnership in dena’s Solar Roofs Program portfolio, the press release said. Since 2004, dena has taken part in more than 40 solar projects across the globe to bring together rising international interest in German solar technology and help expand global solar markets.
Vis Solis has worked on other rooftop and ground-based solar projects across Tennessee that are capable of producing a total of four megawatts, and the company also has another six megawatts worth of projects in Arizona.