The largest solar farm in Alabama history is now online and contributing about 75 megawatts of clean renewable energy to the electrical grid maintained by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA service area includes 9 million customers in seven southern states.

Jay Stowe, vice president of distributed energy resources for the Tennessee Valley Authority, says,  “It is a 640-acre solar energy center. There’s about 300,000 solar panels that will be able to produce enough power to supply about 15,000 homes with carbon-free electricity.” The River Bend solar farm cost $150 million and is the largest in the TVA system or the state of Alabama.

Stowe says the electricity produced at the River Bend Solar Energy Center will keep more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year. That’s like taking more than 22,000 cars off the road for one year. The economic benefits are just as important, he says. “During construction, it employed over 350 workers, and most of those were from the local area.”

The solar farm will continue to support the local economy for years to come. “The project will add more than nine million dollars in property taxes to support local schools and services,” according to Stowe.

The River Bend solar farm was developed in cooperation with NextEra Energy Resources, which will operate the facility. It will supply electricity from the River Bend solar farm to the TVA for the next 20 years pursuant to the terms of a power purchase agreement. The solar panels are mounted to a tracking system that allows them to follow the sun across the sky which maximizes the amount of electricity produced.

“Solar energy just makes sense. It’s economic and it’s on par with many other forms of generation and it’s clean,” NextEra spokesperson Bryan Garner tells WHNT News. Alabama can experience periods of extreme weather. Garner

Garner says the solar panels were designed to be durable. “All of these structures are wind rated, they are also built to withstand sizable hail and lightning,” Garner explained. “Lightning could damage a panel but not the entire array here. So this is a rather weather resistant facility.”

Source: Yale Climate Connections