Across the street from Sealy High School, Visual Promotions, a local manufacturer of promotional products, maintains a large storefront that proudly stocks Sealy related merchandise such as hats, t-shirts, coolers, you name it.
Down the road, the police department distributes free bumper stickers at Tony’s Family Restaurant that read “Love where you live. Sealy, Texas”.
It’s a wonderful place.
Sealy and communities like it succeed when they are powered by the community energy of residents, civic organizations, and businesses that work together to weave and strengthen the local fabric.
FARMING COMMUNITY ENERGY WITH SOLAR PANELS IN SEALY
In addition to being the birthplace of Sealy Mattresses and football great Eric Dickerson, Sealy is home to terrific establishments, over 6,000 residents, and Local Sun’s first solar farm located on 12 acres along FM 3013 in Austin County.
The site is a former rice field that is typical of so much of the Texas landscape. It has a natural gas pipeline buried down the middle, fosters crawfish after heavy rains, and is surrounded by friendly neighbors.
The site also has new 35 kVa power lines and is about a mile from a giant Walmart distribution center, providing the needed electrical load on the local CenterPoint circuit to welcome our power generation, almost as generously as Sealy has welcomed us.
The solar farm consists of 15,000 solar panels on 250 trackers that follow the sun to generate 2,500,000 kWh per year. Every kWh generated by the farm is one less kWh required on the local grid from long distance transmission lines and polluting power plants.
In addition to generating power, the project supports jobs in the area and revenues for Austin County – things that contribute to community energy.
50 construction jobs were created during the initial installation, materials were locally sourced, and revenues stay in the community. Hein Contracting, a family owned and operated construction company located directly across the street, prepared the site and maintains the property.
In the past, Austin County received $20/ year in property taxes from the location due to an ag exemption. Now, the county sees over $20,000/ year in revenue from the increased property value, providing added capital for county services.
Residents that get their power from Local Sun directly make this happen.
CONNECTING PEOPLE AND POWER
In the 1930s, a program was launched to dramatically improve the lives of rural Americans through the electrification of farms and the creation of local electric cooperatives functioning as community owned utilities. Most of these energy co-ops exist today and are a major part of our infrastructure.
While the shift to local clean energy sources might not have as direct an impact as getting electricity for the first time, the effects of being closely connected to cleaner power can be meaningful, especially in the long term for future generations.
One of the major accomplishments of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in the 30s was it brought people spread over long distances together around a sense of ownership and loyalty with their power company. Much like the community bank and grocery store, it was part of the fabric that worked to benefit those it served.
Today, there are opportunities to revisit the REA’s accomplishments even in our deregulated, competitive energy environment. By bringing people together around local power projects that benefit communities, we can accelerate the addition of cheaper, cleaner energy sources and innovative technology that enhance our quality of life.
COMMUNITIES LIKE SEALY CAN LEAD THE WAY
Sealy ISD thinks big. The administration, faculty, and staff exhibit an enthusiasm that is contagious.
Over the past few weeks, Local Sun has had the opportunity to participate with other local businesses and the district to discuss how we can work together to prepare Sealy ISD students for the future.
The district is committed and has a wealth of capabilities that would certainly add value to our business. Rather than flying specialized solar service techs from California and Arizona, we would love to train a local workforce of students within the ISD that could optimize our on-site operations and learn and participate in our general marketing and business efforts.
Based on those we’ve met in the district, the students would hit it out of the park.
As Local Sun and area businesses like ours look to grow, who better to lead the expansion than the next generation of community members that stand to most benefit from it. Sealy knows this and is investing in its community to make sure it happens.
In addition to an engaged school district, Sealy also benefits from an active Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and Community Foundation, along with other civic organizations that add value to the city. From day one, we have felt encouraged and supported because of these organizations and their members.
It’s within this framework of residents, organizations, and businesses working together that communities can generate the community energy needed to power ahead.