By Nancy Darby
If you take a drive down Hawkins Academy Road, a couple of miles outside of Rutledge, you will find a large field with a brand new crop. A crop never before seen in Georgia. A crop that will continue to produce year after year, all four seasons. The fields used to hold cotton. Then they held pine trees. Now 165 acres are being planted with a whole new long-term cash crop: solar panels. That is right, solar panels. Enough solar panels to promote Georgia from one of the lowest solar energy producers to one of the highest states in solar production. Out here in our little corner of the woods.
All in all there will be 135,000 solar panels in this field alone. There is also a substation to transform and transmit that energy to Atlanta and all points beyond. The construction company is called Crowder. They are based out of Charlotte, N.C. And they are the first to admit that this is a new challenge for them. But they are up to it. They have personnel training at the solar manufacturer’s facility. And the challenges keep coming. They started clearing the land in the spring, and in-spite all of our rainy weather, they need to have all 135,000 panels installed and ready to go by the end of November. This is great for local laborers. There are about 150 people employed short term for the assembly of the solar panels.
Other areas of the world that have large solar fields are the Mohave Desert in California, two large ones in Spain, one in Germany and one in India. A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell (PV), is a device that converts light into electric current using the photoelectric effect. The first solar cell was constructed by Charles Fritts in the 1880s. Researchers Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin created the silicon solar cell in 1954. These early solar cells produced 286 USD/watt and reached efficiencies of 4.5 to 6 percent. By 2012 available efficiencies exceed 20 percent and the maximum efficiency of research photovoltaics is over 40 percent, (per Wikipedia). In fact, solar is just beginning its growth and Georgia is on the leading edge. In the recent polls, both Republican and Democratic voters agreed at 92 percent that solar energy needs to be the leading developed type of renewable energy source.
So if you have a couple of minutes to drive down Hawkins Academy Road, you really should go out and see Georgia’s newest cash crop, solar energy. It is amazing to see the technology growing from the ground up, from the brackets being assembled to the solar panels being installed. This is history in the making. History you will want to show your children and your grandchildren. Maybe one day we will all have a solar panel for energy in our yard, and electricity will be free. But it all starts here, on 165 acres outside of Rutledge.
Music in the Park The Music in the Park for Friday, Sept. 13 is David Clemens from Covington. David performed once this year and we all enjoyed his vocals and guitar. Come join us at the Gazebo in Rutledge from 7-9 p.m.