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Silicon Ranch: Providing Clean and Cost-Effective Solar Power

BY :  Dhruv Bhasin    |   November 1, 2018, 7:14 am EDT

Human population growth has emerged as a pertinent threat to the biodiversity and ecology of the Earth. As the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a deadline of until 2030 for the planet to stem catastrophic climate change in a landmark report, it becomes essential to lower emissions through implementing changes in energy, industry, transportation and consumption patterns. Silicon Ranch, a company based in Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the largest independent solar power producers in the US and aims to bring to communities cost effective and clean energy.

As per an article in the Business Insider, the US has successfully added more solar power compared to any other kind of electricity in the first quarter of 2018 – accounting for 55% of all US electricity added so far in the same year. Rising investments in solar are indicative of a global pattern that prove that the sector is a fast growing one. Furthermore, this reflects a positive shift in consumer interest towards renewable sources of energy.

Origin

Founded in 2011, Silicon Ranch Corporation was formed to serve communities in a responsible manner – to provide low cost, reliable and renewable alternatives to existing sources of power. The company develops, owns, and operates large-scale solar farms, and views these projects as not just “technical” projects but also as “social” ones given the positive societal externalities that arise out of them.

The company was co-founded by Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr when the two worked in the administration of Governor Phil Bredesen. The idea of Silicon Ranch took form when the duo was working together on an assignment which entailed formulating a clean energy strategy for Tennessee. This led to several meetings and conversations with clean energy thought leaders and stalwarts. Kisber and Farr were quite successful in recruiting companies to Tennessee across the solar, wind, and biofuel space. They also realized the potential within the US, particularly in the Southeast, for a company that would provide full-service solutions for companies that wished to inculcate solar into their energy mix. This coupled with the belief that the region is prepared to embrace renewable energy and solar power led to the birth of Silicon Ranch as we know it today.

Kisber has worked with industry leaders from across the US and around the globe to bring investments and jobs to Tennessee. Farr has previously worked with KPMG and Ernst & Young. Together the two were able to collaboratively launch the company by bringing together their respective skill-sets.

Tapping the Energy of the Sun

Silicon Ranch works with landowners to develop cutting edge solar energy farms on their properties, industrial clients and developers to provide them with unique solutions for their energy-demands in a low-cost manner, and utilities to support them in their endeavor to bring cost effective solar energy to their customers.

Solar panels

The company has provided unique solar energy solutions, supported by world class infrastructure. Their facility, Aerojet Rocketdyne is an award winning solar farm and is the largest utility-scale solar project in the state of Arkansas. Silicon Ranch built a first of a kind structure that enabled Aerojet Rocketdyne to tap as much energy as required during solar production hours, thus achieving their internal sustainability goals. Apart from positive environmental impacts, the project led to the creation of new jobs, resultantly contributing to economic development of the region.

In the case of the BrightRidge Solar Farm in Tennessee, the company aimed to generate power for more than 500 homes in one year, with zero carbon emissions and water consumption. Their two facilities in Hazlehurst are collectively going to be one of the largest solar power generating facilities east of the Mississippi River and will elevate Hazlehurst to position of one of the top solar communities in the US. The Hattiesburg Solar Farm supported as many as 350 jobs during the construction period and supplies power to approximately 6,500 homes through nearly 200,000 panels. Silicon Ranch has also partnered with Mead Energy Academy, an initiative of the Mead High School that exposes students to the principles of energy generated from both conventional and renewable sources. The school is located a few miles away from the Maverick Solar Farm and the partnership aims to create educational opportunities for students to engage and understand deeply the role of solar energy in a diversified energy mix.

With several other projects in their portfolio Silicon Ranch boasts of a 100% completion rate of each project and remains committed to the mission of serving the people of America, especially in the rural regions, by bringing to them low-cost solar power.

Expanding Horizons

Entering a market that was predominantly dominated by large European players or players from the American west and southwest, Silicon Ranch today has a portfolio of over 120 solar farms across 14 states.

In March 2018, the company completed a transaction to make international energy giant, Royal Dutch Shell plc (Shell) its largest shareholder, through an acquisition of 43.83% interest. This came at a time that was considered opportune, as for many utilities and companies, solar offers the lowest cost option for long-term energy because solar construction costs have dropped significantly. The current scenario is characterized by the following:
• An increase in the demand for solar energy,
• Decreasing costs with improved technology, and
• Consumer shift towards renewable energy.

The deal enabled Silicon Ranch to enter new markets and expand their offerings. At the same time, it gave a solar energy platform in the US to Shell, which is based out of the Netherlands.

Conclusion

Today Silicon Ranch serves diverse clients, from military partners, to rural electric cooperatives and corporate customers, from high schools to government agencies. The company includes 880 megawatts of Photovoltaic systems contracted, being built or operating, with nearly 1 gigawatt in the pipeline for development. Silicon Ranch projects are in-progress across the nation, including New York and California. While opponents of solar energy often argue that it is too costly, the company has lived up to the words of Al Gore when he said, “I think the cost of energy will come down when we make this transition to renewable energy.” It is these words that are a testament to the future of Silicon Ranch, a future as bright as the sun.

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