BLAKELY, Ga., October 15, 2019 – According to Silicon Ranch’s Nick de Vries, construction of the solar farm in Early County between Blakely and Arlington is on schedule.
“We plan to begin testing the plant in November,” de Vries stated. “And we plan to be loading electricity onto the Georgia Transmission grid by the end of the year.”
The remarks were made by de Vries during a tour of the 1,200-acre solar project last week as part of a “Regenerative Energy” workshop hosted by White Oak Pastures in Bluffton.
Until now, once solar panels are installed on a tract of land, the land underneath typically goes idle. It’s usually mowed, but any agricultural production or cultivation ceases.
Silicon Ranch’s Early County site will be the first new-build to incorporate the company’s holistic Regenerative Energy™ platform — the pilot “Center of Excellence” for the Regenerative Energy program.
The company is partnering with Will Harris to incorporate the holistic environmental best land-use practices Harris uses at White Oak Pastures. They are also partnering with the Restore the Earth Foundation to develop methodology to quantify the program’s outcomes.
Sheep will likely be the preferred animals to graze under the solar panels on the 1,200 site.
When asked about the Regenerative Energy program he will be partnering with, Will Harris stated, “I’m going to have to find a way to sell a lot more sheep!”
Besides enabling the production of a marketable agricultural commodity on the solar farm, Regenerative Energy provides many other benefits, including improved soil, improved air and water quality, increased diversity in animal and plant life, trapping carbon in the soil, job creation and stronger rural economies.
Construction on the solar farm began in March and has provided jobs for between 400 and 500 employees, depending on the phase of construction.
“Many of those are local employees who have learned a new job skill which they will be able to take with them to other sites,” stated de Vries, SR’s Vice President of Technology & Asset Management.
The $85 million solar project with its 400 construction jobs represents the largest investment in Early County since construction of the Southern Land, Timber & Pulp Corporation’s $42 million paper mill and its 400 jobs near Cedar Springs in the early 1960s.
The 102.5 megawatt is one of three planned solar projects representing an investment of over $160 million in Early County.
The other two Silicon Ranch projects (20 megawatts and 70 megawatts) will be located in near Hilton and Cedar Springs.
The Early County solar project is deploying over 350,000 solar modules, the first produced by Hanwha Q CELLS’s new manufacturing facility in Georgia, which is also the largest in the United States.
The three solar projects will help Walton EMC supply 100 percent renewable energy for Facebook’s data center being built in Newton County, Georgia.
Silicon Ranch also has several nearby projects under construction, two west of Bluffton in Clay County and another in Terrell County.
Silicon Ranch’s portfolio includes more than 120 solar farms across 14 states, from New York to California, including the first large-scale solar projects in Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.
Founded in 2011, the company is the U.S. solar platform for Shell, and works with partners such as the U.S. military, America’s electric cooperatives and TVA.
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