Written by The Tennessean Staff
The state's large solar farm in Stanton, Tenn., will officially open with a 3 p.m. ceremony on Thursday.
The state of Tennessee and University of Tennessee are hosting the event at the 25-acre, 5-megawatt West Tennessee Solar Farm. It features about 21,000 ground-mounted photovoltaic solar panels and is estimated to provide enough energy for 500 homes and offset use of 250 tons of coal per month.
The generated electricity is distributed through purchase agreements with local utility Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Next year, an information and welcome center is planned there to to house Spectrum, an educational solar exhibit. Since Interstate 40 passes nearby, officials are counting on lots of visitors stopping by and learning firsthand about solar energy.
The solar energy industry has been a rapidly growing sector of the state's economy, with 180 for-profit companies in its solar value chain and 6,400 people employed in solar-related industries, a release about the project said.
Among those expected for the ribbon cutting are Dr. David Milhorn, executive vice president, University of Tennessee; Paul Fassbender, assistant commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; John Schroer, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Transportation; Franklin Smith, mayor, Haywood County; Ben Fischer, president, Signal Energy; and John Collins, president, Chickasaw Electric.
In 2009, the state allocated $62.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus funds to the Volunteer State Solar Initiative, including the West Tennessee Solar Farm and the Tennessee Solar Institute.
Working through the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, the University of Tennessee is responsible for installation and operation of the power-generation facility. Signal Energy LLC of Chattanooga designed and built the solar farm.