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Len Foote Hike Inn installs new upgraded solar panels
hike inn solar panels
The Len Foote Hike Inn has recently installed a new roof and new solar panel array on its Sunrise Room. (photo courtesy of Eric Graves)

The Len Foote Hike Inn, the backcountry inn accessible only by a five-mile hiking trail beginning at Amicalola Falls State Park, recently finished installing a new roof and solar panel array on its Sunrise Room, a project that will triple the solar panels’ production and extend the life of the roof. 

The project was funded through the 2020 GoodUse grant, which is designed to assist environmentally friendly organizations like the Hike Inn with resource efficiency upgrades to their facilities. The finished installation of the roof and panels has been a long time coming, according to Hike Inn Director Eric Graves. 

“We applied last January and got notified in March that we’d received the grant, but with the Covid shutdown, the group that was managing the grant, SouthFace, couldn’t come out and do site visits per their company policies,” Graves said. “So I had to do a FaceTime video tour of the Hike Inn with them, show them the property and talk about the projects we were thinking about doing.” 

Upon notification that the Hike Inn would be receiving the grant, Graves and his staff were given a list of approved projects. Right at the top of the list was a new roof and solar panel array for the inn’s Sunrise Room.

“The original array that was on the Sunrise Room was almost 20 years old,” Graves said. “The inverter that was with the old system had been damaged due to a lightning strike, so we could have gotten a new inverter, but it would’ve cost more than all this new array.” 

The building’s roof underneath the old solar panel array was asphalt shingling, and they decided to also replace the shingles with a new metal roof. 

“We wanted to put a metal roof under it this time just for better protection of the building,” Graves said. “The metal roof will actually last twice as long as asphalt shingles, so we wanted to do that to just increase the life of all the components.” 

According to Graves, the roof replacement took about three days of work, and the installation of the new panels took about three more days. 

The most important thing the Hike Inn will gain from the new solar panel array is a huge increase in the energy it produces. According to Graves, the new array produces almost six kilowatts of energy, which triples the wattage output from what it was previously. 

“That’s the biggest thing was just being able to upgrade that efficiency,” Graves said. “Projects that have a longer life and improve our efficiency are wins for us.” 

Graves said he and the Hike Inn staff hope to receive more grants through the same program in the future so they can continue to improve their facilities. 

“We’ve already applied for another grant through the exact same program, so we’ll see what happens with that one,” Graves said. “We’ll find out hopefully in the next few months.” 

If they do receive another grant, Graves said he would love to upgrade the solar panels on more of the buildings at the Hike Inn, as well as possibly install a battery backup system in case of power outages. 

“We’re not too sure what’s next — we have talked about re-roofing our laundry facility or our staff housing. We’re looking at replacing all of our roof materials over the next few years, and we talked about maybe adding in a battery backup system in case we lose power,” Graves said. "But we’ll just kind of have to see what they think about the list of projects this time and go from there.”