2018 GA Solar Advocate Award Winner - Sam Kitchens

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Sam Kitchens honored for developing municipal uses for solar and saving taxpayer dollars

Macon, GA — The Macon-Bibb 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 13th, 2018 at the organization’s annual Holiday Celebration.


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).

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 connecting 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 would 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.

Macon-Bibb County Manager, Keith Moffett, praised Kitchens for bringing solar value to Middle Georgia.

“We are the first in the state to have solar initiatives as part of our buying process, which saves us money in our budget. As county manager, one of my top priorities is making sure that we provide the best services at the best price.”  Moffett continued, “By having solar incorporated into our procurement process, Sam has ensured us to not just get great products but get them at a great price.”

Michael Chanin, CEO of Cherry Street Energy in Atlanta, worked with Kitchens in creating a 600-panel solar canopy for the Macon-Bibb Sheriff’s Investigative Center under the provisions of a recently approved Georgia law. The law helps government and nonprofit organizations enjoy the benefits of solar energy.

“House Bill 57 and the market in Georgia that was established from incorporating these types of agreements allowed Sam and the City [of Macon], at no cost, to have a solar installation built just like the one at the Sheriff’s Investigative Center,” he said. “Their vision and understanding allowed us to work through a process that had never been worked through before in the state.”

Now, Kitchens is engaged in the “Solarize Middle Georgia” initiative that gives homeowners the opportunity to invest in solar at the lowest possible cost using lower administrative overhead and bulk purchasing to reduce installation price.

“In the last year, we have been in that area of changing hearts and minds,” Kitchens said. “Solarize Middle Georgia is an educational opportunity to show people that solar is an option …. a solarize program gives you a true free option to look at everything that’s out there.”

Counties throughout Georgia are realizing the positive economic impact solar projects provide: the several firehouses and the solar canopy at the Sheriff’s Investigative Center, along with the Solarize Middle Georgia campaign are among the latest examples.  Sam Kitchens has been Macon-Bibb’s local champion, propelled by his hope that solar’s meaningful savings and clean energy will benefit taxpayers in efficient county operations.  His effective and ongoing efforts make Kitchens the kind of positive role model GA Solar’s annual Solar Advocate Award was designed to celebrate.

About the Georgia Solar Energy Association: The Georgia Solar Energy Association, comprised of leading experts in solar manufacturing and installation, academic, finance, and the law is leading the effort in Georgia to promote the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy through education, advocacy and industry support.  Our members are working together to make Georgia a leader in innovation, creating jobs and attracting investment.

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