Len Foote Hike Inn installs new upgraded photo voltaic panels

The Len Foote Hike Inn, the backcountry inn only accessible via a five-mile hiking trail from Amicalola Falls State Park, recently completed the installation of a new roof and solar panel array in its Sunrise Room. This project will triple the production of the solar panels and extend the life of the roof.

The project was funded by the GoodUse 2020 grant, which aims to help eco-friendly organizations like the Hike Inn improve the resource efficiency of their facilities. The final installation of the roof and panels was a long time coming, according to Eric Graves, director of Hike Inn.

“We applied last January and were informed in March that we had received the grant. However, with the Covid shutdown, the group that managed the grant, SouthFace, was unable to come out and conduct site visits as per their company policies “said Graves. “So I had to take them on a FaceTime video tour of the Hike Inn, show them around the property, and talk about the projects we were thinking about.”

Upon notification that the Hike Inn would receive the grant, Graves and his staff received a list of approved projects. At the top of the list was a new roof and solar panel arrangement for the inn’s Sunrise Room.

“The original array that was in the Sunrise Room was nearly 20 years old,” said Graves. “The inverter that ran the old system was damaged by a lightning strike, so we could have got a new inverter, but it would have cost more than all this new array.”

The roof of the building under the old solar panel was made of asphalt shingles, and they decided to replace the shingles with a new metal roof as well.

“We wanted to put a metal roof under it this time to better protect the building,” said Graves. “The metal roof actually lasts twice as long as asphalt shingles. That’s why we wanted to do this to extend the life of all components. ”

According to Graves, replacing the roof took about three working days and installing the new panels took about three more days.

The most important thing the Hike Inn will benefit from the new solar panel array is a huge increase in the energy it produces. According to Graves, the new array produces almost six kilowatts of energy, which triples the output from the previous one.

“That’s the greatest thing, just being able to improve that efficiency,” said Graves. “Projects that have a longer lifespan and improve our efficiency are a win for us.”

Graves said he and the Hike Inn staff hope to receive more grants through the same program in the future so they can continue to improve their facilities.

“We have already applied for another grant through the exact same program, so we’ll see what happens to this one,” said Graves. “Hopefully we’ll find out in the next few months.”

If they get another grant, Graves said he would like to upgrade the solar panels on more buildings at the Hike Inn and possibly install a battery backup system in the event of power outages.

“We’re not sure what’s next. We talked about redesigning our laundry or our staff house. We want to replace all of our roofing materials in the next few years and we’ve talked about possibly adding a battery backup system in case we lose power, ”said Graves. “But this time we just have to see what they think of the list of projects and move on from there.”

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