Solar power farm a first for Northeast Tennessee

Robert Houk • Aug 18, 2018 at 12:56 AM

Officials with BrightRidge, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Silicon Ranch Corp., a Nashville-based energy company, broke ground Friday near Jonesborough on what they say is the first solar power-producing plant in Northeast Tennessee.

The 40-acre solar farm, which will be owned and operated by Silicon Ranch, is also the first public/private partnership of its type in the region.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said during a ceremony at the site of the 41-panel solar plant off Miller Road. “We are near the oldest town in Tennessee, and we are about to dedicate one of the newest forms of energy technology out there.”

Dykes said the solar project — which is set to be operational by the end of this year — would allow BrightRidge to offer its customers access to a sustainable and renewable energy source that could power 500 homes. He said the partnership means his utility can expand its business portfolio to include long-term use of solar energy.

“This is an opportunity for BrightRidge to be out front on renewable energy,” Dykes said.

Matt Kisber, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch, said the Washington County facility will be capable of generating 8 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. He said the project will be a “showcase for the community” when it comes to sustainable solar energy.

“We are building a 5-megawatt solar array that will provide electricity to BrightRidge and supply homes and businesses with low-cost power,” said Kisber, who served as state commissioner of economic development under former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Kisber founded Silicon Ranch with Bredesen and Reagan Farr, who now serves as the company’s vice chairman and CFO.

Silicon Ranch is covering all costs to build the solar farm with the understanding that TVA and BrightRidge will buy power from the facility. Matt Beasely, chief marketing officer for Silicon Valley, said his company expects to spend “several million dollars” to build the Washington County solar farm.

Beasley said the facility will be equipped with low-cost solar panels that should last 30 years. He said his company is involved with similar projects in 14 states, and currently operates 120 solar facilities.

McCarthy Building Companies Inc., a national company with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, is the general contractor for the solar project. Earlier this month, McCarthy began construction on a 53-megawatt solar power plant in West Tennessee.

The 402-acre Millington plant is a public/private project that includes Silicon Ranch, TVA and Memphis Light, Gas and Water. It is currently the largest solar energy project in Tennessee.

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