published Friday, September 9th, 2011

Tennessee's largest health insurer installing city's largest solar array

Joey Casebier, left, and Brice Goin of Sustainable Future install photovoltaic panels on the roof of the BlueCross BlueShield Gateway Building in downtown Chattanooga on Thursday. The installation will be the largest solar energy project yet in downtown Chattanooga.
Joey Casebier, left, and Brice Goin of Sustainable Future install photovoltaic panels on the roof of the BlueCross BlueShield Gateway Building in downtown Chattanooga on Thursday. The installation will be the largest solar energy project yet in downtown Chattanooga.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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BlueCross BlueShield is turning to the sun to improve its own environmental and fiscal health at one of its downtown Chattanooga buildings.

The state's biggest health insurer is adding Chattanooga's biggest solar energy system to the roof of the Gateway Building on West M.L. King Boulevard. The banks of solar panels being installed this week by the Knoxville-based Sustainable Future LLC eventually will cover nearly all of the roof of the building and help cut the company's electric bill by an estimated $53,068 a year.

"We were already committed to a green vision, which made the choice to add solar easy," said Dan Jacobson, vice president of properties and corporate services for BlueCross. "With our focus on efficient operations and environmental sustainability, it is the right direction for us."

The $915,000 solar installation is capable of generating 198.24 kilowatts of electricity and is projected to generate an average 241,217 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year.

But BlueCross will only have to spend about $210,000 of its own money on the project. The Tennessee Solar Institute, which is funded with federal stimulus dollars, is providing a $243,240 grant to BlueCross. The insurer also is taking advantage of other federal and state tax credits and assistance for renewable energy projects, BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Danielson said.

Statewide, the Tennessee Solar Institute has funded 125 solar installation projects. The BlueCross project is the fourth biggest in the state and was accepted only after some of the initial projects selected by the Solar Institute in the first round of its solar grants failed to go forward, Solar Institute communications manager Chris Davis said.

The Solar Institute has funded 11 solar energy projects in Hamilton County, and more are expected to be announced soon in the institute's second round of funding.

Last year, BlueCross also achieved Gold status in the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Efficiency Design, certification for its corporate campus atop Cameron Hill.

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about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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kenny008 said...

Where were these solar panels manufactured? I'm concerned we have yet again subsidized the Chinese solar industry with TARP stimulus money. Anybody have any answers?

September 9, 2011 at 7:32 a.m.
remnar said...

The panels were manufactured in Memphis

September 9, 2011 at 8:17 a.m.
joepulitzer said...

Well, they're embracing the gays and lesbians, so it's not surprising they are also embracing the sun god.

September 9, 2011 at 8:58 a.m.
PHAYWARD said...

So BCBS is saying they will get their $210,000 initial money back in about 4+ years ($53,068 saving per yr). What percent of BCBS power consumption does the solar cel cover per year?

September 9, 2011 at 9:17 a.m.
Onceuponatime said...

Joepulitzer, really? Sun God? It is a renewable energy source. Not idol worship.

September 9, 2011 at 9:46 a.m.
commentreader said...

Several Tennessee companies will see benefits from this decision by BlueCross.

  • The installation will use panels that are manufactured in Memphis
  • Lawson Electric of Chattanooga will be involved in the AC electrical side of the installation
  • EPB in Chattanooga will install the green meter and administer the TVA Generation Partners Program
September 9, 2011 at 12:01 p.m.

While this is a good move by BCBS to help save more for their subscribers, the total ROI on this project would be around 18 years not counting any maintenance costs. This goes to show that solar is not yet viable as a replacement for more available methods of power generation. I love the concept of solar, but the costs of implementing it are yet too high to make it a practical replacement. Drill baby drill.

September 9, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.
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