JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — BrightRidge kicked off construction on its second solar farm in Washington County. The goal is to impact students in local schools first-hand.
Community leaders gathered Tuesday to break ground on the future site of the solar farm that will generate clean energy to lower costs and support economic development.
“We want to be first. We want people looking to this part of the state when they want an example for where they should be going themselves,” said Jeff Dykes, CEO of BrightRidge.
The 25,000 solar panels will power local schools in surrounding counties interested in offsetting some of their electricity needs with cleaner energy sources. This will also include East Tennessee State University.
“That is reaching everyone. Whether they are a taxpayer or they are involved in the schools from day to day. This was a way for us to say, let’s reach out with something that will touch the entire community,” said Dykes.
The money the power company saves through the lower-cost, innovative electricity will be donated right back into programming for local schools.
BrightRidge partnered with Silicon Ranch, a national solar power company that is investing millions of dollars into the farm.
“Not only does it produce renewable generated electricity locally, it also contributes to the economy,” said Matt Kisber, Silicon Ranch co-founder and chairman. “We look forward to this being a tool that helps to further the efforts and priorities of this community in recruiting capital jobs and making the BrightRidge service area the best in the country.”
Silicon Ranch is also providing materials for local classrooms to teach about solar collection and power distribution
This is the first project to enter construction under the Tennessee Valley Authority’s new “generation flexibility program” which is meant to encourage local power companies to develop new distributed generation facilities, like solar power farms.
“I can’t thank them enough for bringing more renewable energy to the valley. This is a critical time,” said Amy Edge, east region director of customer relations for TVA.
The farm will be called the Martin Solar Farm in honor of the late Ralph Martin, former director of the local power company.
“I think he would just be absolutely so pleased to know that his years of service on the Johnson City Power Board, BrightRidge Board and his property are going to add value to this community,” said Jenny Brock, Johnson City commissioner.
Leaders say investing in solar energy carries East Tennessee into the next century.
“This is going to be impactful for years and years to come. Hopefully this won’t be the only one, it’s just the beginning,” said Rep. Diana Harshbarger.
Construction on the solar farm is set to be complete by the end of 2021.
BrightRidge has an existing solar power farm located in Telford.