Construction begins on 9-MW solar project under new TVA distributed generation program

BrightRidge, Silicon Ranch and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) broke ground Tuesday morning on a new solar farm in western Washington County, Tennessee. The 9-MWac facility will be named the Martin Solar Farm in honor of the late Ralph Martin, who served for many years as director of the local power company.

As the partners announced last September, the project is the first to enter the construction phase under TVA’s new Generation Flexibility Program that is designed to encourage local power companies (LPCs) to develop new distributed generation facilities. The Martin Solar Farm will allow BrightRidge to generate clean energy to lower costs and support community and economic development.

The energy produced by the Martin Solar Farm will be offered first to area K-12 and higher education systems interested in offsetting some of their electricity needs with cleaner energy sources.

“BrightRidge is honored to continue to lead the region in distributed solar generation, thanks to partnership agreements with TVA and Silicon Ranch,” said Jeff Dykes, BrightRidge CEO. “These partnerships provide our customers with an efficient way to access clean energy benefits at scale while avoiding the long-term costs of individually owned and operated facilities. At the same time, we know access to clean energy is a key long-term driver of economic opportunity in our region.”

Silicon Ranch expects to invest several million dollars in private capital to build the Martin Solar Farm and will own and operate the array for the long term. The project will be the second solar generation facility on the BrightRidge system built in partnership with Silicon Ranch and TVA. In 2019 the partners commissioned the Telford Solar Farm under the former TVA Distributed Solar Solutions program.

“Under the visionary leadership of its CEO Jeff Dykes and its board of directors, BrightRidge continues to represent the best of public power and is truly at the vanguard of the Flexibility Program here in the Tennessee Valley,” said Matt Kisber, Silicon Ranch co-founder and chairman. “Silicon Ranch is honored to expand our partnership with BrightRidge through this landmark project, and we applaud TVA for empowering all LPCs to leverage low-cost renewable energy to meet customer needs and recruit new business.”

Silicon Ranch expects to hire approximately 150 craft workers to install a single-axis tracking system that will make 25,000 bifacial solar panels to follow the sun across its daily arc.

“TVA is a low-cost carbon reduction leader, and it takes partners like BrightRidge and Silicon Ranch to help us transition into a cleaner energy future,” Doug Perry, senior VP, TVA Commercial Energy Solutions. “TVA plans to achieve a 70% carbon reduction by 2030, and BrightRidge’s Martin Solar Farm will be a beacon to attract jobs and investment into the community.”

As it does with all projects, Silicon Ranch will focus on hiring workers from the local community and surrounding region. Once construction is complete in late 2021, the project will produce enough carbon-free electricity to help power more than 1,000 homes. In addition, Silicon Ranch will contribute significant tax revenues that are accretive to the local tax base and help support the local school district.

“Today’s announcement is fantastic news for East Tennessee,” said Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger. “This investment will create more jobs in our community and hopefully attract further investments down the road. I’d like to thank Jeff Dykes and the team at BrightRidge for their support to our community.”

News item from BrightRidge