A champion of the local art scene for over 21 years, Dick Nelson (of Nelson Fine Art Center, Johnson City, TN) is now turning his focus to sustainable energy. In March of 2011, Nelson installed what is now the largest solar array in the Northeast Tennessee. Since then, his sixty-three solar panels have produced 18,307 kWh of energy: equivalent in emissions reductions to not driving 30,000 miles in a standard car.* 

In a region where few solar projects have been initiated, Nelson is somewhat of a pioneer. “It just makes sense,” says Nelson on the use of solar power, “in contrast to traditional energy sources, it’s something we’ll never run out of.” Nelson’s solar panels are making sense and will soon be saving him money. His annual electric bill has been consistently over $6,000, but throughout 2011 the TVA has been paying him back as he pumps usable energy into the grid. Solar installations can be a large up-front investment; however, Nelson received around $80,000 in grants to initiate efforts with help from the Tennessee Solar Institute and the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. He also sees that it’s not all about money, “It’s a change in thought process, a way from finding the cheapest source of energy to finding the most sustainable source of energy.”

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