A $22,000 grant from the Arconic Foundation is making Ijams Nature Center a cleaner, greener place.


The nonprofit, 300+-acre center used the funds to install additional solar panels on the roof of the Visitor Center.


The new panels are projected to save more than $2,700 annually in traditional electrical use. Green Earth Solar, LLC (GES) completed the installation in March 2017.


“Adding the new array saved about $540 on Ijams’ utility bill in March and April,” Ijams Facilities Manager Brenda Rayfield said. “It was such a significant savings that KUB sent out two electricians to replace our meter because they thought it was broken.”


The effort is part of Ijams’ Sustainability Initiative, which was created to educate the public about climate change and the effects of traditional energy production and use on the Earth, as well as provide information about alternative energy sources. The solar panels serve as an educational demonstration model and interpretive signage helps visitors learn about solar energy options.


“At Ijams, our mission is to educate people about nature and encourage them to become stewards of the natural world,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “But it’s not enough to teach others to care for the Earth. Ijams needs to ‘practice what we preach’ in daily operations. Using renewable, clean energy sources to reduce Ijams’ environmental footprint is an important way to do both.


“We truly appreciate the Arconic Foundation’s support of this project,” Parker said. “Arconic’s generosity will have a significant impact on Ijams—and the environment—for years to come.”


The new 7.8-kilowatt (kW) array brings the total size of Ijams’ rooftop system to 19.04kW. Power generated each month will vary depending on the amount of sun the panels receive.


GES installed the original 11.34kW system in 2015. It produced almost two megawatt hours of power before the additional 7.8kW system was added. A megawatt hour (MWh) is equal to 1,000kW of electricity used continuously for one hour, which is approximately the same amount of electricity used by about 330 homes during one hour.


Grants from the Alcoa Foundation funded both installations. When Alcoa and Arconic split into two companies, the Arconic Foundation completed the grant process.


Ijams Nature Center is a nonprofit, 300+-acre educational center for all ages, abilities and walks of life. Ijams’ mission is to encourage stewardship of the natural world by providing an urban greenspace for people to learn about and enjoy the outdoors through engaging experiences.


Located just three miles from downtown Knoxville, Ijams features 12 miles of hiking and mixed-use trails, a public access river dock, swimming, boating, biking and more. The center offers hundreds of educational programs annually, from school field trips and off-site programs to on-site outdoor and classroom education programs. Classes focus on topics from birding and wildflowers to yoga hikes, cooking and art. The Ijams grounds and trails are open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk. The Visitor Center is open during the summer from Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit Ijams.org or call 865-577-4717.