BARC goes solar

It is not often that Bath and some surrounding counties can be considered “on the cutting edge”, but now thanks to Bath Electric Cooperative, affectionately known as BARC, they absolutely are. A groundbreaking community solar project, the first one on a utility scale in Virginia, will be constructed in Rockbridge County, and available to approximately 180 residential customers and twenty small commercial members in the surrounding area as soon as the end of this summer.

While the final parts of design and engineering plans are still coming together, it is likely construction will start as soon as April. A big positive of the project, in addition to its’ beginning to reduce our constant consumption of fossil fuels, is that there will be an onsite classroom to house a solar learning center. Subscribers, school children, and possibly area high school students interested in sustainable energy trades, will be able to visit and learn more about solar power. BARC staff is also hopeful that the project site may be a work training site for technicians becoming certified in solar installation.

The CEO and general manager of BARC, Mike Keyser described why they selected Affordable Energy Concepts a contractor from Madison Heights north of Lynchburg.

They have a “ track record of success, and their vision for the facility and solar learning center aligned closely with ours. They will be a tremendous partner to help us launch community solar in Virginia.”

Mr. Keyser continued. “Our community solar subscribers will have no upfront costs and no maintenance responsibilities, but will receive all the benefits from solar as if it were on their roof. By subscribing to the energy output and fixing a portion of their electric bill for twenty years they are also hedging against future increases in our purchased power costs.”

David Wall, the president of Affordable Energy Concepts, expressed his company’s pleasure about being contracted by BARC. “BARC is leading the Commonwealth in developing a truly innovative solution that breaks down the financial and physical barriers to solar most customers face.” He also would like to see it be a model for future projects.  Construction on the photovoltaic system may take six months. It is expected to generate up to 550 kw of power.   On the Bath Electric Cooperative website the company states,

“If the project oversubscribes before it is built we will run a lottery and maintain a waiting list for future system expansion.

There are other helpful energy management tools on the BARC website including calculators to see how much your home electricity is costing you. These calculators are even broken down into specific appliances such as televisions, space heaters, and lighting. Now, thanks to the sun, and BARC, some of those appliances may burn less fuel, and benefit your budget and the planet. If you are interested in getting more information on how to become a solar subscriber, please call the member services representative at 800-846-2272.


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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