Solar power augments funding for Legends Park

Solar power augments funding for Legends Park

Phase II construction of the Legends Park neighborhood will gain part of its funding — and power — from solar panels.

The 27-building, $14 million Legends Park West will be built with a combination of Hope VI grants and other public and private funding, but will receive more than $1 million for the design and construction of a solar component.

Rosalyn Willis, David Schuermann and Archie Willis III in recently completed phase one of… more

The solar panel funding is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Green Communities Initiative, says David Schuermann, a principal with Architecture Inc. and the project’s designer.

The design of Legends Park West, along with a recent announcement that the federal government would allot $5 billion in tax credits for renewable energy equipment, could result in more job creation at the Memphis operation of Sharp Manufacturing Co. of America, which has increased its number of employees from 300 to 480 over the last year. Sharp manufactures solar panels and solar roof shingles in Memphis.

The $5 billion follows $800 million in New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds from the federal government in 2009 that financed commercial facilities that generate electricity from renewable sources like solar power. While Sharp officials say it’s too early to determine how much funding the company could receive and how many more jobs it will create locally, Ron Kenedi, vice president of Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group, says the incentives for renewable energy are overdue.

“Every form of energy gets an incentive from the government, whether it’s a tax credit or direct payment,” Kenedi says. “Even the project that is spewing oil in the gulf was incentivized by the government. The solar market is growing at an unprecedented rate and our factory will grow to meet the increases in demand.”

Schuermann says solar panels will be able to provide at least 10% of electrical demand in Legend Park West’s 100 apartment units and townhouses. The $19.5 million first phase of Legends Park included a 45,000-square-foot mixed-use building with 15,000 square feet of commercial space, a management office and 134 apartments. Schuermann says “there’s more dirt available” for a potential third phase that would include a mixed-use component consisting of housing, retail and office space, but plans are still in their infancy.

Schuermann says Sharp is “the logical choice” to provide the solar panels for Legends Park West, but a deal hasn’t been finalized. He hopes a deal is in place in the next two months. Construction on Legends Park West is scheduled to begin in August with completion scheduled for December 2011.

Funding from the Green Communities Initiative was based on a point system that awards architects and developers for “green points” in a project. Legends Park West includes surface water management, energy efficient appliances, water permeable walkways and heat reducing roofing materials. The project is using bamboo and ceramic tile flooring instead of carpet.

“Solar is by far the most progressive portion (of the green points),” Schuermann says.

As the government continues to add incentives for sustainable elements designed into a project, Schuermann can see it becoming more of the norm.

“I’d expect every project will eventually need to address green initiatives and it’ll be the modus operandi,” he says. “As more and more people do it, you won’t need the incentives anymore.”

The increase in federal funding could also assist the U.S. in regaining its title as the top solar panel producer in the world, a status it has lost to China, according to Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. Germany is the world’s top market for solar energy.

“A decade ago, we made more than 40% of all solar panels,” Resch says. “Since then, other countries have supported clean tech manufacturing while the U.S. rested on our laurels. The result is that today we manufacture less than 10%. An additional $5 billion to stimulate the domestic manufacturing of renewable energy equipment is a good first step.”

Legends Park
Budget: $83 million
Architect: Architecture Inc.
Contractor: Caroma Construction Co. | (901) 259-1722


~Michael Sheffield