Shenendoah is a Southern-style "new town" like Columbia and Reston about 45 miles outside Atlanta. It has bikeways, green space, and a dream.
"We intend to be a one-stop demonstration site for many alternative energy sources," says Ray Moore, chief spokesman for the development. It was started in 1974 with a recreation center that includes a gym, swimming pool and ice rink.
The 54,000-square-foot center is one of the largest buildings in the world heated and cooled by solar energy. Like much of Shenendoah's $18 million inventory of energy experiments, it was partly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Not all of Shenendoah's energy dreams have come true. The town tried to become the site of the Solar Energy Research Institute, but the institute was eventually located in Colorado.
Early in October, a proposal for a Shenendoah neighborhood powered by the sun was turned down for federal funding. The company will try again next year, Moore said.
Of the power packages that have been approved, some are modest, the kind you might find in any recent subdivision. There are solar water heaters in two of the 75 houses built so far and a solar heat pump in a third house.
Others are lavish, pioneering giants, among them a five-acre solar collector now under construction. When finished in 1980, it will provide electricity, heat, cooling and industrial steam to Bleyla of America, a knitwear plant already in operation here that currently uses conventional power sources.
Shenendoah's energy-consciousness "is not a prime motive for the majority of buyers" in this self-proclaimed "new town in the country," Moore said. With the cost of equipment addling $10,000 to the price of a house, sun power is more expensive than any of the more traditional power sources, except all-electric systems. (The purchasers of Shenendoah's solar-heated houses were fleeing steep bills for their all-electric homes.)
For the most part, Moore said, Shenendoah buyers are drawn by the recreation center, the open space (20 percent of 7,400 acres will stay undeveloped by agreement) and the proximity to Hartfield International Airport, where terminal construction will boost the work from 21,000 to 31,000 in the next few years.
However, one-fourth of the development's houses have special energy-saving features, most notably a package of six-inch wall insulation, nine-inch ceiling insulation and double-paned windows.
Formerly offered as an $1,800 option on houses built by Mac McKinney, Shenendoah's largest builder, the package is now standard on all his houses.
In one such house, an energy-conscious couple last year relied on gas heat, a specially designed wood-burning fireplace and some fidding with the thermostat to keep heating bills in cold december down to $12.
Houses cost $33,000 to $95,000;the cheapest have 1,100 square feet of space, three bedrooms and 11/2 baths. The price is roughly $10,000 lower than that for the same model (used) an Atlanta suburb.
An industrial park is the commercial core of the new town, though many residents commute to nearby Newnan, an antebellum town with little new housing. There are few commuters to downtown Atlanta.
Companies in Shenendoah and those planning to locate there can employ a total of $1,700 workers. The growing job pool is a key to the town's planto have 42,000 residents before 2000, compared with about 250 now.
Among the businesses at Shenendoah is K-Mart, which has its southern distribution center there. CAPTION: Picture, This $70,000 house in Shenendoah has three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths.