Tennessee's largest solar array goes online
April 18, 2012 – TVA and Chickasaw Electric Cooperative have begun distribution of solar power generated by the West Tennessee Solar Farm in Stanton, Tenn.
The farm, owned and operated by the University of Tennessee, is the largest solar energy array in the state of Tennessee and the largest solar facility feeding power to the TVA grid. The Haywood County facility, located about 45 miles northeast of Memphis, is capable of generating 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 500 homes and offset 250 tons of coal each month.
“The West Tennessee Solar Farm opens a new chapter in the history of American solar power, tying together economic development, public education, and future research capabilities that will cement Tennessee’s leading role in this fast-growing, high-tech sector,” said Dr. Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee.
The farm, designed and built by Signal Energy within view of Interstate 40, features 21,000 photovoltaic solar panels spread across more than 25 acres.
“We are excited the West Tennessee Solar Farm has become a reality after years of hard work and planning,” Molly Cripps, director of the state Economic and Community Energy Division, said. “The Solar Farm will serve as a visible reminder of the possibilities the advanced manufacturing and energy technologies sector holds for Tennessee.”
The solar-energy industry is a rapidly growing sector of the state’s economy. Tennessee has 180 for-profit companies in its solar value chain and has installed approximately 27 megawatts of solar power. About 6,400 Tennesseans are employed in the industry, a huge jump from just a few years ago.
Solar component manufacturing is a targeted industry for the TVA region. One of the larger solar companies in the area that has experienced considerable growth is Sharp Electronics, which manufactures solar panels in Memphis. And two companies that make polysilicon for solar cells and semiconductor devices have made large investments in the construction of new facilities in Tennessee. Hemlock Semiconductor is building a plant in Clarksville, and Wacker Chemie is building near Cleveland, Tenn.
In addition to producing power, the West Tennessee Solar Farm is designed to educate the public about solar energy. It will be home to a future public information center, accessible to some 10 million motorists who drive by on Interstate 40 every year.
“Tennessee is a leader,” said Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the Department of Energy, during a tour of the West Tennessee Solar Farm. “This puts you right on the front edge.”
Visit the West Tennessee Solar Farm website to learn more.