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Sun power keeps local businesses humming
Eco-friendly electricity a cheaper option for many
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Sol Airsoft owner Price McKibbon checks the power inverter Thursday at his Thompson Bridge Road business. A solar panel array supplies needed power and a group of batteries stores power for cloudy days.

In the blazing heat of the summer, Price McKibbon is enjoying running his air conditioner on high but not even worrying about the power bill.

McKibbon decided when he opened his business in Gainesville to install solar panels and run his office totally off power generated by the sun.

"My target market is really 20 year-olds, plus or minus 10 years," McKibbon said. "That age range, myself included, we are just more eco-friendly and eco-conscious. I wasn't so sure about it and I thought it was an interesting idea, I thought maybe I could sort of lead the way for businesses to use solar power.

"It's an expensive purchase to start with, but really, we are off the grid. We have free electricity."

Local power companies are making alternative energy sources available to consumers.

Georgia Power's Green Energy program is available to residential customers in 100-kilowatt-hour blocks for a 12-month period, which is about 10 percent of an average monthly residential electricity bill, according to the company's website.

"In our conversations with customers we've definitely seen an increase in interest in solar energy," said Jeff Wilson, Georgia Power spokesman. "We want to put these different technologies in place and see which technology work well or technologies work well, what the cost implications are so we can really factor in different scenarios."

Georgia Power also offers Premium Green Energy that contains both biomass and a solar energy, which is $5 per block added to your monthly electricity bill.

Jackson EMC members have the option to purchase "green energy" electricity created from renewable resources like solar, wind and biomass.

"We get requests for information or calls weekly more and more for solar applications," Tracy Rogers, residential marketing representative with Jackson EMC.

Jackson EMC members may purchase a 150-kilowatt-hour block of green energy on a first come, first served basis. Members pay an additional $4.50 each month.

McKibbon, 22, opened Sol Airsoft, an Airsoft gun arena, in July. For him, choosing renewable solar energy was an easy decision.

The solar energy enables the company to run independently from a power grid. The solar panels produce enough energy to power the building, air conditioning, webcams, lights, a fan, computer, sound system, sewer pump, water pump and the power to charge the Airsoft guns.

Not only does Sol Airsoft use solar panels, but the ammunition is biodegradeable and there are recycling bins throughout the property.

"There were 24 solar panels, 16 batteries, two charge controllers, two inverters," said Justin Green of Southern View Energy. "The panels themselves are a 5-kilowatt solar system. That means just how much of any given hour of the sun shining how much electricity they are able to produce.

"Even if the sun didn't shine for three or four days, they would be fine without having to get a gas generator out there."

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