Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Harnessing Power of Sun in Venice

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Harnessing Power of Sun in Venice

Article excerpt

SOLAR ARRAY: Sharky's owner saving money and providing energy for cars

VENICE

A two-year process transformed a retention pond into a solar field that is saving money and energy for a business owner and providing free charging to people driving electric vehicles.

The project's builder, Jeff Gates of Beechwood Builders, said he hopes the concept takes off. After all, just three weeks after its completion, it proves that solar energy can come from the most unlikely places.

"We've always been interested at Sharky's and in our personal lives as being as environmentally friendly as we can," said Mike Pachota, president of the Venice Pier Group, which operates Sharky's on the Pier and Fins at Sharky's restaurants.

His wife, Donna, is a member of the city's Environmental Advisory Board, a group of residents charged with making recommendations about how the city can be more environmentally responsible.

During the opening of a new Sharky's building a couple of years ago, Pachota told Gates the couple wanted to expand their green efforts and were interested in solar.

They were not interested in roof panels.

"How about in the retention pond?" Gates asked. "He told me, 'If you can do it, I'll pay for it.'"

The builder created a solar field for Waste Management off State Road 776 in Englewood about three years ago and has installed systems on the roofs or in the backyards of about a dozen houses, Gates said.

He said he has not heard about any other solar projects in the state that are anchored in retention ponds.

The Sharky's pond, dry for most of the year, holds water during the July through September rainy season.

Now, about 70 concrete 8-foot posts, with four feet buried underground, are bases for racks holding 105 photovoltaic panels. When rain collects in the pond, the poles keep the panels above the water level.

In the parking lot just south of the solar field, two of the parking spaces are painted green. As part of a $1-a-year lease agreement for the pond with the city, free, public charging stations were added for electric cars, golf carts and electric bicycles. …

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