Renewable energy continues its expansion in the Southeast with the recent unveiling of two 1-megawatt solar farms in Tennessee and Georgia. Each is the largest solar energy project in the history of its state, but more importantly, these facilities continue the recent trend of economic growth through renewable energy markets in the Southeast.
Combine these two new solar farms with the renewable energy investments that we reported on last month, and it’s easy to see how solar energy generation and manufacturing is quickly establishing itself as an economic driver here in the Southeast.
On January 27th, A ribbon-cutting event unveiled a more than 1-megawatt (MW) solar farm at the American Drive Business Park in Jackson, TN. This system consists of 4,914 polycrystalline solar modules that were manufactured in nearby Memphis, TN by Sharp Manufacturing Company. Tennessee’s new governor, Bill Haslam, spoke at the commissioning event, touting former Governor Bredesen’s accomplishments in bringing the solar industry to Tennessee and highlighting the need to continue supporting the industry. SACE is hopeful that he will continue to champion solar as he did when he was Mayor of Knoxville.
Also participating in the ribbon-cutting event was CEO of TVA, Tom Kilgore, and Tennessee’s Director of Energy Policy, Ryan Gooch. As part of the ceremony, both Kilgore and Haslam installed the final solar module with Robbie Thomas, president of the installation company Efficient Energy of Tennessee.
The solar facility has a capacity of 1,047 kilowatts (kW), producing enough energy to power about 250 homes in addition to the on-site Business Center. The system connects to the local power grid (Jackson Energy Authority) and is part of TVA’s Generation Partners Program, where TVA purchases the electricity produced at $0.12 above retail rate per kilowatt hour. This program, along with state and federal incentives for solar power, have led to a nearly six-fold increase in solar power generation in Tennessee in just one year.
The Jackson, TN solar facility is the second 1-megawatt system installed by Efficient Energy of Tennessee (EETN) in the past year. They were also responsible for the state’s first 1 MW system that was commissioned last August just outside of Knoxville.
“ We are thrilled to see EETN’s hard work come to fruition through this exciting project in Jackson. This array will benefit all the people in the Tennessee Valley Authority Region because it increases the percentage of their power that comes from renewable sources and reduces their dependence on petroleum-based utility power,” said Eric Hafter, Senior Vice President, Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group in Sharp’s press release.
Meridian, the development company that owns the business park, said this is their first venture into solar power generation. ”We expect this investment to be one of our huge successes,” said Michael Katz, managing director of Meridian in a My San Antonio article. “Sustainability is important to us. Aligning business and public policy goals are possible.”
In addition to the project in Tennessee, a 1 MW solar farm in Blairsville, GA, announced on January 24th, will be the largest privately-owned ground mounted connected system in Georgia (see first picture). The project, which will sit on nearly five acres, also participates in TVA’s Generation Partners and will use 4,300 Suniva monocrystalline solar panels and four of Advanced Energy’s 260kW PV Powered inverters to generate approximately 1,303,000 kWh of energy each year. Like the 1 MW in Tennessee, this project also used locally manufactured solar modules as Suniva is located in Atlanta, GA.
The project is being managed by ESA Renewables, LLC. ESA President, Jeffrey Burkett recognized the project as a significant step forward for the development of the clean energy industry in Georgia: “Solar has gained momentum in the U.S. and we believe our global expertise and resources in providing turnkey PV projects add exceptional value. Meanwhile, we are supporting various sectors of the solar industry while creating new job opportunities for the local economy.”
SACE has long been aware of the environmental and public health benefits of clean, renewable solar energy, but its capacity as an engine of economic growth is particularly important as we struggle to recover from the “Great Recession.” We applaud the political leaders, public citizens and innovative companies that are making solar energy a reality here in the South.
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