Solar atop rec center to save expenses

Anne BrockOur Town Outdoors

Public spaces, particularly rooftops, are increasingly helping cut utility costs for municipalities seeking sustainability goals. Knoxville’s Cal Johnson Recreation Center is one of the most recent examples of this in East Tennessee.

This year the downtown facility has a 20-kilowatt solar array, designed and installed by the Knoxville-based crew at Solar Alliance. At the time when city council approved the project, Office of Sustainability Director Brian Blackmon explained, “adding solar panels to the popular recreation center is part of the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in city operations.” The city of Knoxville is aiming to reduce carbon emissions by nearly a third by 2030.

City leaders expect the new rooftop system will additionally save around $4,000 annually in utility costs at Cal Johnson. The addition of solar follows recent years of major renovations to the facility, inside and out. It now has bright new playground facilities outdoors as well as several new amenities inside.

For other cities or counties looking at projects like this, the Department of Energy offers this Local Government Guide for Solar Deployment. It includes case studies that city leaders might relate to. The Direct Pay option that can provide federal financial incentives for public energy projects is also rolling out with more details from the IRS.

Anne Brock is marketing coordinator for, which offers start-to-finish solar project management, energy evaluations and even continuing education Solar 101 classes for some professionals. She can be reached at 865-221-8349 or


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