ELKMONT — Just outside Elkmont in north Limestone County is a farm of sorts, but with solar power, not crops.
PJ Kraft Solar Farm, a 200-kilowatt system that’s equipped with 666 solar panels, stretches across a quarter of an acre at Hays Mill and Sandlin roads and generates enough electricity to power 50 homes a year, said Chuck Boggs, the CEO of ACE LLC Solar.
The Pulaski, Tennessee, energy contracting company partnered with PJ Kraft Solar Enterprises LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on the project, which was activated in November 2016.
“The project helps reduce the CO2 footprint and reduce overall energy costs to consumers,” said Boggs, who’s also counting on the company’s four solar projects for his retirement.
The solar operation will generate and sell electricity to the Tennessee Valley Authority for a 20-year period, he said.
“We plan to expand sometime next year, with another 200 kilowatts,” said Boggs, whose company designed and built the system and will maintain it. He said it was built to sustain 120-mph winds.
The program is among the TVA’s growing renewable energy portfolio.
“In 2008, the TVA sourced renewable energy from five locations in the Tennessee Valley,” TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said. “In 2018, it’s grown to over 3,500 locations.
“Renewable energy has a bright future in the Tennessee Valley.”
On the east side of Interstate 65, McCarthy Building Companies Inc. is building the 20-megawatt Cumberland Solar Project on 130 acres at 26754 Mooresville Road.
Construction of that project started in late February, said Adam Pratt, a project manager for McCarthy who’s the project manager for the Cumberland Solar Project. It’s scheduled to be completed in December.
Power from the solar array will be transmitted onto the TVA system, and TVA entered into a long-term agreement with Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, the project’s developer, owner and operator, to buy power from the solar facility, the companies said in a release.
The project will consist of assembling, installing and wiring horizontal 540 single-axis trackers supporting 170,220 solar panels, according to the companies. Once completed, it’s expected to generate enough power for 3,000 homes.
“This project supports TVA’s mission of service and helps us deliver reliable, low-cost, carbon-free electricity to the 9 million people of the Tennessee Valley,” said Jay Stowe, senior vice president Distributed Energy Resources for TVA, in a release.
Over the next 20 years, TVA will invest about $8 billion to support its renewable energy portfolio to help customers meet their carbon-reduction goals, Stowe said.
Boggs didn’t disclose the partners’ investment in the PJ Kraft Solar Farm.
“We’ve gotten 80 percent of our investment back already, and it’s been two years,” Boggs said. “We look to have all our investment back within four-and-a-half to five years.”
Among incentives the partners received was a 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit that’s available for residential and commercial solar projects.
“We also participated in the AlabamaSAVES Program and were able to get a substantial discount on a loan” to finance the project, Boggs said.
Since PJ Kraft Solar Farm’s activation, the system has produced 565 megawatt hours of energy, enough power to charge 23,551 electric cars or 101,564,405 smartphones, according to ACE LLC.
The company also designed, installed and maintains the solar energy system at Cinemagic Theatre in Athens, which has been active since the first part of July 2017.
Matt Beasley, chief marketing officer with Silicon Ranch, said it’s too early to provide a total capital cost that the firm will be investing in the Cumberland project.
“Silicon Ranch is funding the project and will own and operate the plant for the long term, an approach we take to every project in our portfolio,” Beasley said.
McCarthy said it plans to hire upward of 120 workers to build the project, with the majority being recruited from the local community.