By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The switch was officially flipped on the newest landmark in Millington.
The dedication of the largest solar farm in the state of Tennessee took place in Flag City in front of dozens of contributors and special guests. When the honored panel flipped the ceremonial switch, Millington became the home of solar panel farm, operational at Naval Support Activity Mid-South.
“It’s always a pleasure to see the hard work and labors of many people, leaders of the community, leaders of industry and especially in this case,” said James B. Balocki, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, “leaders of the Navy coming together to see something take shape. As big as this is and the contribution it will make to the whole community is just fantastic.”
For a century Millington and the U.S. Navy have worked together on various projects and events to benefit the residents of Flag City and the surrounding areas.
“The community and the Navy have had a relationship for more than 100 years,” Balocki added. “All this does in my mind is cement the future of that relationship. And that’s many decades to come. The Navy is a integral part of the community here. And I see no reason why we wouldn’t continue to be good neighbors and good partners going forward.”
The project is the result of the public-private partnership between the city of Millington, U.S. Navy, Memphis, Light, Gas and Water, Tennessee Valley Authority and Silicon Ranch Corporation.
“Overall this is a partnership between the community, Silicon Ranch, NSA Millington, TVA, Memphis Light Gas & Water to bring together this great solar farm,” said Daniel P. Pratt, TVA Vice President of Customer Delivery. “And to meet the needs of all of those involved from low cost power to carbon-free power to resiliency that supports our Navy Base as well. TVA has reduced carbon admission by 54 percent since 20005. And that is our goal going forward.
“And we recognize that is an important part of the generation portfolio,” he continued. “We see solar taking up a present role today and in the future as well. We look forward to more these celebrations and partnerships.”
Millington is the newest place to bring multiple entities together including the Nashville-based Silicon Ranch. The U.S. solar platform for Shell and one of America’s largest independent solar power producers, employed more than 300 people to construct the 53 megawatt facility.
Silicon Ranch’s work in Millington will provide reliable, resilient power to the NSA Mid-South and TVA at cost-competitive rates for the next twenty years.
“On top of all the benefits that have already been shared, this is an important economic development for the city of Millington by providing a solar farm of this size with an electrical infrastructure is helping to improve reliability not only with the Navy but for the community too,” said Matt Kisber, President and CEO of Silicon Ranch. “It affords Charles Gulotta and the Industrial Development Board another too to try to bring in private investment and private jobs. So many businesses are now looking to relocate to forwarded thinking communities that are embracing renewable energy.”
Silicon Ranch signed a long-term lease with the U.S. Navy for 72 acres of base land and purchased an adjacent 348 acres from the Millington Industrial Development Board.
Also on board with the city of Millington, Silicon Valley, MLG&W and Navy is TVA. The Millington Solar Facility would be connected to the TVA electrical transmission network via a new on-site substation and a new TVA 161-kilovolt transmission line (called the Shelby-Millington Solar 161-kV Transmission Line).
The project would also provide energy security to the adjacent NSA Mid-South facility via a new 12.47-kV distribution line that would be paid for and constructed by SR Millington, LLC to connect from the new on-site substation to the NSA Mid-South facility network.
“What this means is a diversification of the Navy power portfolio to integrate renewable energy in a meaningful way to provide a backbone of resiliency for the Navy and the Millington community and the region as well,” said John Kliem, Executive Director of Resilient Energy Program Office. “It’s really thanks to the vision of the Tennessee Valley Authority. We’re here today because the saw that. They saw the need to integrate renewable energy into the power portfolio. The Navy, the community and in the end everybody wanted it.
“We’re very concerned about confronting our adversaries,” Kliem concluded. “Access to reliable, safe energy is a strategic imperative. It’s hard for adversaries to turn off the sun. So integrating technology like this insures we’re going to have power in the event of an outage. And it will come a backbone to resiliency and insure mission continuity for us and the community.”
The Millington Solar Farm occupies 400-plus acres of solar panels, expected to generate 123 GWh annually, will produce 0 carbon emissions, enough electricity to power 7,500 home annually.