The City of Athens has begun the process of installing a new solar panel arrangement that is supposed to cost around $4 million.

The new installments will decrease the price of utilities for the city as well as move the city toward greater sustainability. The project’s approximate completion date is August of 2021, Athens City Council President Chris Knisley said.

Although the exact location of the panels has yet to be determined, the panels are hoped to be able to provide energy to city-operated buildings like the community center and the wastewater treatment plant.

The city’s two largest energy-consuming buildings are the water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant, Patterson said. The community center is also a large consumer. This is why the tentative location for the solar panels is in close proximity to these locations.

“When we deployed our solar down at the water treatment was almost right away we started realizing the savings that we're having on our grid energy consumption,” Steve Patterson, mayor of Athens, said.

The city is hoping to qualify for federal tax credits to help pay for the project, Knisley said.

The carbon fee that Athens residents voted to be opted into in 2018 may also contribute to the costs of the project, Patterson said. 

The city is looking for suggestions of locations from the company taking on the project.

There is a lot of space by the community center and the dog park, which is adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant, Patterson said.

Although the project is not directly associated with and was planned before the city’s climate emergency declaration, the project fits along with the guidelines of improving the city’s sustainability.

The Athens City Council unanimously passed a resolution that declared that the world is in a climate emergency, Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, said.

“I think it's pretty clear to most of us that we are well behind what we need to do in order to keep the temperature from rising in on the globe,” Crowl said. “Every community has to do their own part. Renewable energy is one way to keep fossil fuels from being used to generate electricity.”