Cobb Electric Membership Corp. in Georgia has built a solar garden that includes three huge “sunflowers” that will produce thousands of kilowatt-hours of electricity as their petal-shaped solar panels track the sun.
The sunflowers symbolize the co-op’s investment in solar, which also includes hundreds of panels installed on the roofs of offices and other buildings on its Marietta campus.
“The solar smartflowers track the angle of the sun just like real sunflowers,” said Mike Codichini, member and public relations director of the co-op, which serves more than 200,000 members northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. “Each one is about 18 feet tall when they’re fully extended following the sun throughout the day, and then they close in the evening or during inclement weather.”
Between the flowers and the rooftop arrays, the co-op can produce nearly 2.4 million KWh of electricity per year, or enough to meet the average residential demand for 182 homes. The project also supports a 1-megawatt battery system capable of providing 4 MWh of reserve capacity.
“The solar garden and smartflowers are reflections of our sustainability efforts to provide clean, reliable power to our co-op members while educating the community about the importance of solar energy,” said Peter Heintzelman, the co-op’s president and CEO. “Our investment in innovative solar technology helps us provide some of the lowest electric rates in Georgia and pave the way for a greener future.”
The solar panels shaped as giant sunflowers can be seen by motorists driving along U.S. 41 north of Atlanta. A fourth “smartflower” is mobile and can be displayed at community events.
“It’s more than just renewable energy, it’s also an educational project,” Codichini said. “Visitors to our campus can come to the garden, take pictures or videos, and learn about how they work.”
He said some local businesses have expressed interest in purchasing panels to show their dedication to renewable energy.
“Solar power is a big part of our area’s future, and a ‘smartflower’ is a great way of showing the world you want to be a part of it.”
Derrill Holly is a staff writer at NRECA.