Tennessee Solar Farm Unleashes 5 MWs Of Power

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s electrification of much of rural Tennessee marked an important chapter in the state’s energy history. Now Tennessee is celebrating another major milestone in electrification: the opening of the West Tennessee Solar Farm, the state’s largest solar power array.

Consisting of 21,000 photovoltaic solar panels spread across more than 25 acres in Haywood County, the farm is capable of generating 5 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power 500 homes and offset 250 tons of coal each month. The University of Tennessee (UT) owns and operates the farm; Signal Energy designed and built it; and Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and Tennessee Valley Authority hold the power purchase agreements.

West Tennessee Solar Farm

image via University of Tennessee

In addition to generating juice, UT will be leveraging the West Tennessee Solar Farm to educate the public about solar power. Plans are in the works for a public information center at the site, which will function as a roadside attraction for some 10 million motorists who drive by on Interstate 40 every year, with easy-off, easy-on highways ramps included for access. The educational facility, scheduled for completion in late 2013, will feature an interactive renewable-energy exhibit.

tennessee solar farm

image via University of Tennessee

Part of what will be highlighted at this renewable energy exhibit, no doubt, will be information on Tennessee’s rapidly growing solar sector, which currently features 180 for-profit companies, employs more than 6,400 people in solar-related industries and has installed approximately 27 MW of solar power capacity throughout the state.

“The West Tennessee Solar Farm opens a new chapter in the history of American solar power, tying together economic development, public education, and future research capabilities that will cement Tennessee’s leading role in this fast-growing, high-tech sector,” said Dr. Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee, in a statement.

Information about the energy generated by the solar array will be available at the Solar Farm’s website.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

    • Ameriman

      This solar project cost $30 million in federal taxpayer $s… Plus $23.5 million in Tennessee taxpayer funds… Plus $millions more from the TVA for power lines… so perhaps $75 million total cost… add in maintenance/depreciation….

      All to optimistically ‘save’ 250 tons of coal per month (about $7,500 worth)..  IF the sun is shining brightly… 5 mw only at peak noontime.. day only.. no clouds, etc…
       to meet .00025% of Tennessee electric needs.. when you still have to have duplicated power capability for dark/cloudy times..
      and in a few years, this will be a toxic waste sight with a hundred tons of cancer causing chemicals in the solar cells…

      and some wonder why we have a $16 Trillion+ deficit, Dems adding over $1.4 trillion per year, and solyndra went broke..

    • Moose W

      These panels produce power very well in either bright sun or low sun . Unless you have the capability to recreate the 250 tons of coal per month out of thin air that this facility does save, I suggest you begin to look into the future of alternative power. This is not the total answer but it is at least a very good step forward. AS far as becoming a toxic dump site I just can’t follow your logic The solar farm is made of nothing more than steel, aluminum, glass, silicon and copper wire. Before the Solar Farm was built those fields were cotton and soy bean fields which were sprayed with weed killer and fertilizer at least once if not twice a year. As for all that money that was spent how does it compare with the money spent on the BP Deep Horizon boo boo or even the TVA sludge dam break in east TN .? I do hope you will revisit your thoughts and think a bit more about the future.