By: Stanley Dunlap
A 2016 agreement to install solar panels outside Macon-Bibb County government buildings was hailed as a historic moment as officials took the lead in supporting renewable energy.
But as measurements were being taken for panels that would go in the parking lot of the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, a proposed mixed-use development down the street prompted officials to change plans.
Instead, a canopy of panels atop a parking deck at the development will provide some solar power for the government center and Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency.
The six-story parking deck will tie into the future Central City Commons that will feature residential lofts, retail space and a hotel. The deck’s panels will provide another source of power for the two government buildings, including providing an extra layer of protection to the EMA building in case of severe weather.
“The panels in our parking lot will definitely reduce the footprint for both Government Center and the EMA bunker, but they won’t produce enough to fully power both,” Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said in an email. “They will supplement the power we get from Georgia Power, but will provide the triple redundancy for backup power at the EMA bunker should the power go out and the generator not work.”
But the solar panels initiative has been modified from the initial agreement with Cherry Street Capital that officials approved last summer. The plan was to install panels outside the new Bibb County Sheriff’s Office investigation annex about the same time as the government center.
The CEO of Cherry Street Energy, a development company of Cherry Street Capital, told Macon-Bibb officials in June 2016 that Georgia legislation was key to expanding solar power capabilities. Third parties are now able to place solar panels and sell the energy to municipalities and commercial property owners.
There are still plans to install solar panels near the sheriff’s annex, but there hasn’t been a time frame set for when that will happen, Floore said.
Macon-Bibb will continue looking at other possible government buildings that could be powered by solar energy, but some locations are much more feasible than others.
“I think the challenge we have now is finding the open area sunny enough to get enough light to power the size of the building,” Floore said.