Going Solar: Modern Technology At Historic Bed & Breakfast

A historic inn aims to attract environmentally conscious guests and save money, too, with the first solar photovoltaic system to generate clean electricity at a Virginia bed & breakfast.

Oak Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast is blending the old with the new, promoting both the building's 200-year history and the modern potential of solar panels that produce sustainable energy. The inn wants to preserve its part of the state's extraordinary legacy of beautiful landscapes and nourishing wildlife habitats. North Carolina-based Southern Energy Management designed and installed the system, which will produce enough power to account for more than half of the property's total demand.

"Our guests will be able to sip lemonade on the front porch as my ancestors once did, then tour the 25 foot by 10 foot lineup of solar panels in the back field," said innkeeper Pickett Craddock, whose family has always owned the former tobacco plantation. "I want to encourage guests to install solar power, too."

The 3.9-kilowatt solar array features 16 Bosch 245-watt modules mounted in the field behind Oak Grove's main building. Combined with its new central heating and air conditioning system with 15 SEER heat pump, the project will allow the bed & breakfast to extend its season beyond the traditional months of May through September.

The project was financed under a unique set of circumstances that also allow Oak Grove to protect the 400 acres of forest surrounding the inn. Its owners are using a Virginia Land Conservation Incentives Act program to preserve the land in perpetuity, a move that made them eligible for tax breaks to make up for the lost property value. Oak Grove then sold the tax breaks and used the proceeds to pay for the solar array.

"Solar is a perfect fit for Oak Grove, and this system will go a long ways towards helping them reach their sustainability goals," SEM Commercial Energy Specialist Evan Bickerstaff said. "This is the first time we've had a client finance their system quite like this, but we'd love to see more businesses do something similar. The idea that land preservation can go hand in hand with a solar installation is absolutely in line with our mission, and that made this project even more impressive."

Land preservation and solar power aren't the only things Oak Grove Plantation has done to make the property greener. The inn recycles, has a compost pile for vegetable scraps and has installed "low-e" energy-efficient storm windows on the south side. Motorists who arrive in hybrids get a third night free. Also, there is optional linen service and all the laundry on site dries on a clothesline. Rain barrels collect water, the inn has a tankless electric hot water heater, it uses compact fluorescent lighting and its owners have deliberately avoided adding a television. With the view off Oak Grove's front porch, many people might suggest a TV would be unnecessary, anyway.

Media contacts:
Chris Cowperthwaite, SEM: chris@southern-energy.com or (866) 575-9151
Mike Doan, Oak Grove Plantation: oakgrove1@juno.com or (434) 575-7137

About Southern Energy Management:
Southern Energy Management is a North Carolina-based sustainable energy company offering energy efficiency, green building and turn-key solar services for homeowners, builders, and business owners across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. A certified B Corp, SEM's two-part mission is to improve the way people make and use energy and to build a prosperous company that supports people and the planet. SEM was founded in a living room in Raleigh in 2001, and is now consistently recognized as an industry leader both locally and nationally. It is among a small handful of companies in the U.S. to earn the national 2012 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award for being named Partner of the Year six consecutive times. SEM was named a CED NC Company to Watch in 2011 and received the 2011 City of Raleigh Environmental Stewardship Award and the 2010 Green Jobs Award from SJF Institute & Green For All. For more information, visit www.southern-energy.com.

About Oak Grove Plantation:
Oak Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast is a former tobacco plantation with three guest rooms and 400 acres of forest. Open from May to September, it is run by Pickett Craddock, whose ancestor, a Virginia legislator, first build a home there in 1820. The B&B, just across the state line from North Carolina, particularly welcomes children and dogs and is handicapped-accessible. The inn is proud of its personalized service, its gourmet breakfasts and its history in Southside Virginia. Among local attractions are the Prizery, a tobacco warehouse turned into a theater; Virginia International Raceway, Staunton River Battlefield, the Crossing of the Dan (Revolutionary War site) and Buggs Island/Kerr Lake. For more information, visit www.oakgroveplantation.com.

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