By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Under crystal blue skies and sunshine, Earth Day 2016 took on a landmark meaning in the city of Millington.
Several officials and dignitaries from the U.S. Navy, NSA Mid-South, Tennessee Valley Authority, Silicon Ranch and city of Millington gathered in the North 82 Gymnasium for the groundbreaking ceremony of the renewable energy Solar Farm.
“The department of the Navy along with the leadership in Millington has been working on this for a couple of years,” said Matthew H. Kisber, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch Corporation. “We’ve been involved for about 18 months.
“We had to compete for the opportunity to purchase the land,” he added. “We had to compete for the opportunity to lease land from the Navy. Then we had to compete for the opportunity to sell the power of the TVA.”
Several months ago the Navy and city of Millington worked along with the Millington Industrial Development Board, Board of Aldermen and Millington Area Chamber of Commerce to getting the project into the planning phase.
Silicon Ranch and TVA came aboard to help the Solar Farm become a reality in Millington. Silicon Ranch will build, own, operate and maintain the facility through a long-term power purchase agreement with TVA. The facility will provide solar power to TVA customers, including NSA Mid-South, at cost-competitive rates.
The project will feature a single-axis tracking table mounting system, which will allow about 580,000 panels to follow the sun across its daily arc. The land is nearly 400 acres and is expected to generate 125,000,000 kilowatts.
“What better way to start Green Day than to bring something green to the city,” Millington Mayor Terry Jones said. “It’s a renewable energy that a lot of companies and stuff are looking for. They are looking to build near renewable energy. Now Millington has the largest solar farm in the state of Tennessee. We’re going to have that right here in Millington, Tenn., a more than $100 million investment.”
Jones joined Kisber on the stage last Friday during the groundbreaking ceremony. Also speaking on the project and the journey to the groundbreaking were Van Wardlaw (executive vice president and chief external relations officer of TVA), Captain David Bryson (Commanding Officer NSA Mid-South) and Steven Iselin (principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy Installations and Environment).
Jones noted many played a role in getting the Solar Farm to Millington but special recognition must go to the IDB Board and its president.
“The biggest person to give credit to is going to be Charles Gulotta with the Industrial Development Board,” he said. “We had to work through them in order to get that property. The property that the city had given belonged to the IDB. I’m sure the IDB is going to reap from that investment. It’s going to really be a windfall for them.”
Kisber said Friday was an exciting day for Millington, TVA, Silicon Ranch and many others who played a part in the Solar Farm coming to Flag City.
“It had been a collaborative effort,” he said. “Having a project, now the real work begins.”
Pre-construction was already underway as the dignitaries performed the groundbreaking in the N-82 Gymnasium. There will be work on transmission facilities for the Solar Farm and organizing panels that will provide decades of clean energy.
Kisber said the work will take about 2 years and he expects the Solar Farm to be ready to operate in the first or second quarter of 2018.
“First of all, this is a very significant investment in the community,” he said. “It is assisting in the economic development because it shows companies the leadership and the commitment to sustainability.
“It’s an addition to the local tax base,” Kisber concluded. “We’ll pay local taxes. We don’t put any demands on local services. It helps provides some resources to the local government.”