It's been over four years since more than a billion gallons of TVA coal ash spewed into Roane County waterways, but the City of Kingston is still working to reinvent it's image.
Construction is set to start on a 50-kW solar farm at the city's water treatment plant, and plans are in the works for a 200-kW farm just down the road.
"I think this lets people see that Kingston is a progressive city. we're ready to go into the future," said Troy Beets, Mayor of Kingston. "We're not the little scruffy town that was destroyed by an ash spill, and we never were. But, that was the perception by a lot of people."
Beets said he hopes that perception will change with the solar farm project and other green initiatives.
"We put in new energy conserving HVAC systems in our library and in our community center. We're doing everything that we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. This just part of it. It's a long process. But, I feel very good and very proud of how far the city of Kingston's come," said Beets.
While several East Tennessee counties have been putting solar panels at local schools, Kingston is different because the city would not have any costs up front.
Beets said Energy Source Partners, the company that designs the solar farm programs, will pay for construction. It would receive the returns on investment until it is paid off. Then, years down the road, the city would start to sell the power to TVA, and receive credits on its power bill.
"We're going to make money off of it," said Beets. "We'll hook it into our meter here at the Kingston Water Plant and we will generate electricity that will be sold back to TVA."
Beets said he modeled the idea after solar farms in Franklin, which has the latest and greatest models.
"As you can see today we've got a great vibrant community here in Kingston and this is just a little piece of the puzzle to let people know, hey, look what Kingston is doing," said Beets. "Other municipalities have already contacted me and said 'Mayor, we're going to copy you' so that makes us feel good."
The city has six months to complete construction of the 50-kw site.
As for the 200-kw solar farm, where the former water treatment plant was located, Beets said the city still need TVA"s stamp of approval.