ASHEVILLE –  Appalachian Energy is partnering with Jim Barkley Toyota to provide a turnkey solar energy system that will be the largest photovoltaic (PV) installation in Western North Carolina, according to reports.

“It was a business decision that made good financial sense based on the federal and state tax credits available, as well as the collaboration with Progress Energy and Appalachian Energy,” said Jim Barkley, CEO of Jim Barkley Toyota.

Barkley said that based on projections, “it will take us less than five years to recoup our investment.” After that, the company will continue to generate income from selling the power to Progress Energy, according to Appalachian Energy CEO Scott Clark.

“This deal is another example of how business leaders are turning to solar power to boost their revenues,” Clark said. “Jim Barkley Toyota, Progress Energy and Appalachian Energy were able to come up with something that was mutually beneficial, in part because North Carolina has a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.”

In 2007, Gov. Mike Easley signed REPS into law to promote renewable energy development in the state while including the utilities. “Combined with federal tax credits, REPS gives companies the opportunity to break even on their investment in solar much more quickly than would otherwise be possible,” Clark said.

Next month Appalachian Energy will begin installation of 336 PV solar panels on the roof of the Jim Barkley Toyota building. The panels will be tied directly to the grid, allowing the company to sell electricity to Progress Energy. The 75-kilowatt installation will be completed by the end of 2008 and will be the largest in the region.

“Progress Energy is moving forward aggressively in pursuing renewable energy as part of a balanced strategy for meeting the region’s growing energy needs reliably, affordably, and in an environmentally responsible fashion,” said Robert Sipes, vice president for Progress Energy’s WNC region. “We’re pursuing technology, partnerships, and other agreements to expand the use of renewable energy in North Carolina. Innovative projects, such as this one, will be critical in meeting our state’s objectives for renewable energy in the future.”