published Saturday, October 29th, 2011

United Renewable Energy hosts solar energy tour for Dalton leaders

Bill Silva, president of United Renewable Energy, and Alex Stahl with the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce look at the solar array at Textile Rubber and Chemical Co. in Whitfield County, Ga. The array is placed atop a industrial landfill.
Bill Silva, president of United Renewable Energy, and Alex Stahl with the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce look at the solar array at Textile Rubber and Chemical Co. in Whitfield County, Ga. The array is placed atop a industrial landfill.
Photo by Mariann Martin.
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DALTON, Ga. — Gray skies and the occasional rain shower may have put a damper on production Friday, but the dreary weather didn’t stop solar energy proponents from predicting a sunny future for Dalton.

“There is no other place in Georgia where you can take a 10-mile tour and see this kind of installation of solar energy,” Bill Silva, the president of United Renewable Energy, told about 50 people gathered in southern Whitfield County.

United Renewable Energy, which has installed many of Dalton’s solar energy sites, hosted a tour for Dalton leaders, business owners from across the state and officials involved in promoting renewable energy in Georgia.

The tour included a rooftop solar array at USFloors, a newly installed array on top of a landfill at Textile Rubber and Chemical Co., Dalton Utilities’ solar system and a solar tracking panel at IVC.

Georgia ranks 38th in the nation in solar development.

Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors, told the group that for him solar isn’t just about the environment — it makes good business sense for his company.

The company has saved 40 percent on utility costs since installing the panels, he said.

“I’m not a tree-hugger; I’m a business person,” he said, amidst laughs from his listeners. “And the numbers do make sense.”

Dossche said he also prides himself in being a leader, creating a more diverse economy in Dalton’s carpet-heavy manufacturing world and helping the county become more energy independent.

Chip Howalt, CEO of Textile Rubber and Chemical Co., echoed Dossche’s endorsement. Howalt’s company has installed a solar array on top of an industrial landfill by using large cement blocks as ballast to anchor the solar panels. “It’s a feel-good thing, but it will yield immediate results to the bottom line,” he said.

Howalt said the company’s rule of thumb is that an investment must pay for itself in three years, a criteria the solar array will meet.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington said he is not surprised to see Dalton embracing solar energy. It is, after all, a city that developed cutting-edge carpet manufacturing, he said.

“Dalton is the innovative capital of Georgia — we have diverse thinkers and diverse innovators,” he said. “And if a company wants to begin making solar panels in Dalton, we will be happy to have them come.”

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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EaTn said...

maybe GOP Rep DesJarlais from Tn could be invited for a tour.

Per the TFP editorial under today's opinion section:

'Elusive job predictions for wind and solar energy"

"During a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, conservative U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, of Tennessee's 4th District, aptly summed up the federal government's absurd approach to solar energy. He said it is like a Tennessee farmer who drives to Alabama to buy watermelons for $1 apiece, then resells them in Tennessee for 75 cents -- and finally "comes to the conclusion that he needs a bigger truck."

October 29, 2011 at 4:43 p.m.
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