By David Pendered
MARTA GM/CEO Beverly Scott plans to talk up the benefits of solar power at a Wednesday luncheon amidst rising political debate over the future of federal solar energy subsidies.
MARTA benefitted from such a program. Two weeks ago, the transit system unveiled its $10.8 million solar canopy at the Laredo Bus Facility near Decatur.
“I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the Georgia Solar Energy Association during an extremely exciting time for the industry in this state,” Scott said.
“Thanks to President Obama’s stimulus funding program and the expertise of our entirely Georgia-based project team, MARTA recently completed the Laredo Bus Facility Solar Canopy Installation which is the largest of its kind in Georgia and the second largest at a United States transit system,” Scott said.
The canopy was paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Program.
The solar panels were manufactured by Norcross-based Suniva, a company founded in 2007 on the basis of research conducted by John Baumstark at Georgia Tech’s photovoltaic lab. Suniva says it has raised some $130 million in venture capital from the private sector, including Goldman Sachs and Warburg Pincus.
Federal subsidies for solar power are now the subject of inquiry by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating $528 million in federal loan guarantees to Solyndra. The guarantees, part of the 2009 stimulus package, could cost American taxpayers more than $500 million.
Solyndra, a California-based company, collapsed for a number of reasons now under investigation. Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August, laid off 1,100 workers and was raided by F.B.I. agents seeking evidence of fraud, according to an account in the The New York Times.
At a Nov. 17 congressional hearing, Energy Secretary Steven Chu testified that Solyndra failed because that’s what businesses do when “the bottom of the market falls out.” Committee members are questioning “the business judgment of the Energy Department and the White House, and the possibility of political influence,” according to the Times.
At MARTA’s Laredo Bus Facility, Suniva provided 4,888 photovoltaic panels that cover 220 bus parking stalls. The canopies have LED light fixtures that will provide ample lighting, according to MARTA.
The 1.2 megawatt canopy is expected to significantly offset the bus facility’s energy needs while generating the environmental equivalence of planting more than 285 trees a year, according to MARTA.
Spirits were high during the Nov. 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony. MARTA’s press release on the event quotes the leaders of the joint venture that installed the canopy.
From New South Construction Senior Project Manager Fredrik Nilsson: “This was an exciting opportunity for New South and Circle D. It is a success for MARTA, our team and the thousands of green work hours that have gone into this project, but more importantly, it will hopefully help generate the interest in and growth of solar power here in Georgia.”
From Circle D Enterprises President Hebrew Dixon, III: “Today was a great day in our history. This is the second largest project of its type in the country and was completed by a diverse team of administrators and staff and local contractors, vendors and suppliers. Maynard Jackson would have been proud of how this project shows that public-private relationships can produce maximum benefit to the community.”
Scott remains equally bullish on the project. Last week, as she looked ahead to speaking before the Georgia Solar Energy Association’s luncheon, Scott said:
“This extremely successful project, completed on-time and within budget, represents the best of public-private-partnerships at work – government agencies joining forces with homegrown companies to establish financially viable sustainability practices that save taxpayer dollars, create jobs and most importantly preserve our environment for generations to come.”
For information about the luncheon go to www.gasolar.org/