Agricenter approves solar farm on its East Memphis property

Published November 1, 2011

The Commercial Appeal October 31, 2011

By Tom Bailey Jr.

A solar farm received final approval Monday by both the Agricenter International and Agricenter Commission boards.

Construction of the five-acre solar array — just west of Ducks Unlimited headquarters — is to be completed by April, if TVA approves the extension of a subsidy.

Silicon Ranch, the company owned by former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen, will finance and own the $4.2 million project, officials announced Monday.

However, after 10 years, Agricenter International will review the array’s productivity and consider purchasing it.

The 1 megawatt solar farm would use 4,000 solar panels to generate enough electricity to power 200 homes or 20 businesses.

It will be the first solar array in Tennessee to have a solar tracking system, in which the angle of the panels slowly moves with the sun during the day. The rotation will help generate up to 20 percent more power.

Memphis-based Sharp Solar will provide the solar panels. In fact, the only part of the project not from Memphis will be the tracking system, made by SPG Solar of Novato, Calif.

“We were focused on keeping this project within the state and the county,” Agricenter president John Charles Wilson said in statement.

LightWave Solar of Nashville has done the engineering and design and will oversee the construction.

A subsidy called a “Generation Partners Expanded Pilot Participation Agreement” made the project possible, officials said.

The TVA agreement pays 12 cents above the retail rate for each kilowatt hour produced by the solar farm.

Agricenter will add a solar farm tour to its educational programs.

A viewing area will be provided, as well as online monitoring that displays its energy production. Also, a live camera will be aimed at the solar farm to allow classrooms a view from any computer.

Before work can start, TVA must still approve a six-month extension of its subsidy program, Wilson said.