The crew that brought the solar power project together assembled to celebrate the finalization of the array’s installment. Pictured from left to right are Rex Wilburn, Bob Richert, Karen Jones, Tabitha Smith, John Meyer, Monica Smith, Mayor Tyrone Coleman, Glen Klett, Michelle Knox, Mike McKee, Jeff Overturf and Rusty Wanstreet. Photo by Benjamin MarxerThe solar panels installed on top of the Port of Cairo building will produce over 61,000 kWhs of electricity per year. The savings on energy costs will make the location look favorable for new businesses. Photo provided.

Solar power brightens plans for Cairo project

An array of solar panels is set to bring a burst of energy to the Cairo business scene. 

The newly installed 50.05 kw flat roof system set up atop the Port of Cairo building on Sycamore Street is estimated to produce over 61,000 kWhs of electricity per year. 

This extra power will help offset energy consumption, keeping costs low and making the location more favorable for new businesses. 

Funding for the array was procured by the non-profit group SISCO (the Southern Illinois Stimulus Corporation), thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. 

The Rural Business Development Grant program provides grants for rural projects that finance and facilitate development of small and emerging rural businesses. These grants can fund a broad range of projects, including solar power upgrades. 

The Cairo array is composed of American-made SolarWorld modules and Unirac racking. It is estimated that the system will pay for itself in less than six years. 

The clean energy production of the system will offset 50.08 tons of carbon per year in comparison to the same amount of energy being produced from traditional fossil-fuel sources. 

The project was developed by Michelle Knox, owner of WindSolarUsa Inc. and was installed by Jeff Overturf, owner of Overturf Electric. 

Overturf himself was the beneficiary of a Rural Business Development Grant designed to help bring training to Southern Illinois electricians wanting to expand their business to included solar installations 

The building has been leased by Rondell Swope, CEO of Horizon Developer Group. 

Swope and his organization have dedicated themselves to bringing new business to the region. 

A coin-operated laundromat is already in the works for the Port of Cairo building, with a Mexican restaurant, a new coffee shop and a family resource center soon to come. 

In a press release, SISCO fiscal agent Tabatha Smith encouraged any small and emerging private businesses located in Johnson, Alexander and Pulaski counties that employ 50 or fewer employees and have less than $1 million in projected gross annual revenue to contact SISCO to participate in the next round of Rural Business Development Grants. 

“RBDG funds are a win-win for local businesses,” Smith says. “SISCO and the broader community by bringing new investment dollars to our area.” 

For more information on SISCO and Rural Business Development Grants, contact Tabatha Smith at 618-745-6307 or

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
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