By Chris Floore
Macon-Bibb County’s Director of Parks and Beautification, and Vice Chairman of the Jones County Board of Commissioners, Sam Kitchens received the 2018 Solar Advocate Award from the Georgia Solar Energy Association on Thursday, December 13, 2018, at the organization’s annual Holiday Celebration.
Kitchens was honored for his decade-long efforts to bring solar resources and savings to the Macon-Bibb procurement process. As a result of his initiative, four firehouses now have two solar panels each directly connected to their industrial-sized water heaters. When firefighters return from a fire, they must shower to remove soot and other residues. This puts heavy, daily demand on the station’s hot water heaters. The two solar panels on these four firehouses provide hot water around the clock while lowering the county’s utility bill for this need.
When two panels were installed on the first firehouse in May, the system included a gas valve back-up in case the panels could not generate electricity on overcast days. In December of that year, a service call was logged because this “first” firehouse did not have hot water. The service provider discovered that the gas valve had never been activated, and the two solar panels had delivered hot water for seven months without any back-up while lowering the firehouse utility bill.
Past Solar Advocate Award winners include the Georgia Public Service Commission (ASI and ASI Prime), Mitchell County Economic Development Authority Chair Joe Bostick (Camilla Solar Farm), former Tybee Island City Councilman Paul Wolff (Solarize Tybee), and Shan Arora (Southface/Georgia Energy Data Map).