10/28/2011 - Biltmore Estate to build 6-acre solar array in Asheville
by Jon Ostendorff - Asheville Citizen Times
ASHEVILLE -- One of America's most famous homes is going green.
Officials at Biltmore Estate said Thursday that installation of 5,000 solar panels on six acres will be completed over two months at a cost of $5.2 million. The land is on the east side of the estate below Antler Hill Village visible from Interstate 40.
It will be one of the largest solar arrays in North Carolina, said Chuck Pickering, Biltmore's vice president of agriculture and land use.
The system will supply 25 percent of the estate's energy. Biltmore Estate uses an average of four megawatts of energy per month.
Sustainability is nothing new at the estate, said Kathleen Mosher, communications director.
"This is part of the family heritage," she said.
George Vanderbilt had envisioned a self-sufficient country estate modeled after private manors in Europe when he had Biltmore constructed in the late 1800s.
The main house once had its own generator that created enough power for the 250-room home with electricity left over to sell to the city of Asheville.
Vanderbilt probably would have used solar panels had they been available in 1895, said Mosher and Pickering.
Other environmental efforts at the estate including sustainable forestry, soil and water conservation, employee environmental teams, field-to-table initiatives, recycling, and waste stream reduction, the company said.
Biltmore won the Triple Bottom Line Award from Sustainable North Carolina in 2008.
The solar panels measure 3 1/2 feet by 5 feet with four to a rack and seven racks to an array. SunEnergy1 of Mooresville is installing the arrays.
The racks, which face south, are five feet tall in the front and 10 feet tall in the back.
The height means Biltmore can continue to use the 6 acres as farmland. Free range chickens will live there, Pickering said.
He said the birds don't mind the panels.
"It gives them protection from hawks and other predators," he said.
The racks are mounted deep in the ground, without concrete anchors to minimize land disturbance. They are designed to withstand wind.
The solar arrays will one day be part of Biltmore's tours, Mosher said.