With the goal of becoming "the only radio station in the U.S. to have its studios and transmitter solar powered," station manager and broadcaster Ron Meredith is installing 36 photovoltaic panels on the station's rooftop, generating eight kilowatts of electricity and supplying the entire needs of the station, he said.
"I'm going to generate my own electricity," he said. "It's a pretty cool thing, and I don't think it's going to hurt my radio station much either. I think I'm going to win on a number of different levels.
Meredith, who owns two stations, WYSH and WGAP 1400 AM in Maryville, and is partner in 96.7 WMYL FM in Knoxville, said the new system should meet about 60 percent of the stations' total electricity requirements, including his personal living quarters.
The project started when he began to consider purchasing generators to serve as a backup during power outages at the station. A solar-powered storage system proved too costly, requiring construction of a separate building to house the equipment. But the idea of generating his own power intrigued Meredith.
"I'm not necessarily a tree hugger," he said, "but I do like to do the right thing. There's some business advantages to doing it."
If a state grant and federal tax incentives come through, Meredith said he could pay as little as 30 percent of the $80,000 project, which will include some roofing upgrades as well.
The panels will be installed by Efficient Energy of Tennessee, a Powell company.
Solar panels aren't the only way Meredith is greening his stations. He has conducted an energy audit and replaced WYSH's transmitter, which was "the size of a refrigerator" and cost $600 monthly to operate, for one that has helped reduce the station's entire monthly electricity bill to $300 per month, he said.
He's also added two new, more efficient heating and air units.
"I've spent a lot of money to save a lot of money," he said.
The station recently held a recycling event as well, after the closure of Clinton's recycling station, and Meredith said he advocated green in personal practice as well as related to economic development when running for mayor of the city a race he lost only recently.
He's decided to stay out of politics but said the project has generated a lot of questions from listeners and others who have heard about his foray into solar energy.
Meredith is working with TVA and the Clinton Utility Board to decide on an exact time to connect the panels to the electric grid, which will require the station to go off the air. The system is set to go online January 10.
And, of course, he's hoping for a sunny day in January or maybe closer to spring for the station to celebrate the event.
"I want the meter spinning and the guys from TVA and CUB talking about how we're doing all this great stuff," he said.