From a one-acre plot of land, accessed only by twisting gravel roads and surrounded by wind-swept cornfields, a Putnam County man is hoping to change how the world views and uses solar energy.
His name is Bill Arrington and he and his business partners are developing a series of state-of-the-art greenhouses that they say will not only produce better vegetables, but will serve as the catalyst for a veritable solar power plant to supplement traditional coal-burning facilities.
Arrington estimates his facility, which is being constructed next to his home between Greencastle and Bainbridge, will produce 140,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year once it is up and running, later this year. He says he is finalizing agreements with two nearby power companies to sell electricity to customers in Putnam and surrounding counties.
Another major benefit of the system is a vegetable-growing operation that Arrington says will produce five to 10 times the yields of traditional growing methods. He said he plans to grow 10,000 pounds of vegetables per year in his greenhouses, from which he will feed his family and eventual sell to the public.
Arrington is the co-chairman of his four-year-old company Sunvention USA and is partnering with two German scientists to develop his plan. The business partners are planning an open house to showcase their work on Oct. 22. Clients from around the world are expected to attend the invitation-only event.
Recently, the BannerGraphic was invited to Arrington's rural estate on CR 300 East to tour the project that is currently under way.
Workers from Greencastle-based R.P. Construction II Inc. have started building two greenhouses on the site, along with a large retention pond -- to be used in the power generation -- and a production facility where an eco-friendly building material will be made using solar energy.
Because of this, Arrington says he can reduce water consumption in his greenhouses by as much as 90 percent. As a practical example, Arrington says it takes 100 pounds of water to produce a single tomato in a typical outdoor setting. In his greenhouses, he says he'll be able to grow the same tomato using less than 10 pounds of water, which he says could be revolutionary for the farming industry.
On the electricity end, Arrington explained that water will be pumped through the solar panels on top of the greenhouses and subsequently heated by the sun's rays. It will then be deposited in a large basin, or "hot lake," located nearby.
Other benefits of Arrington's greenhouse system include a fish-growing operation, in which he plans to grow such breeds as tilapia for sale year-round.
He also plans to manufacture a building material which he calls Sunstone. It is composed of 98 percent sand and 2 percent binder and is meant to be more environmentally-friendly than traditional cement.
"Our goal is to become the largest employer in Putnam County," Arrington said.
Arrington himself is not a native to Putnam County, but moved here from California with his wife Sharon, several years ago, to be near his daughter Marcie Everly and grandchildren.
A self-made millionaire and once named California Businessman of the Year, Arrington says he doesn't mind spending the money to develop his technology if it will mean a better future for his grandchildren and, in his words, "save the planet."
United States Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico has expressed an interest in Arrington's ideas for the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, as stated in a letter issued in April of this year, and the U.S. military in Indianapolis and Florida, according to Arrington, is looking at his ideas for fuel produced using algae.
"It's the right thing to do," he said. "This global environment issue is the real deal."
A website for Sunvention is currently being created and will be up and running later this month. Meanwhile, to reach Arrington, his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org