Local leaders joined executives from NextEra Energy Resources and the Tennessee Valley Authority to celebrate the commissioning of Alabama's River Bend Solar Energy Center.
"We are pleased to once again work with our valued customer, TVA, to bring additional renewables into their portfolio with this first project of its scale in Alabama," said Mike O'Sullivan, senior vice president of Development for NextEra Energy Resources, which is the owner and operator of the project. "This 75 MW solar project will provide millions in recurring tax dollars in aggregate over several decades for schools and essential services in the region and will generate cost-effective, clean, solar energy for years to come."
The River Bend Solar Energy Center features more than 300,000 solar panels with trackers that will follow the sun from east to west each day to maximize energy production. Together, they have a generating capacity of 75 MW, or enough to power more than 15,000 homes. The energy will serve TVA consumers starting this year, under a 20-year power purchase agreement between TVA and NextEra Energy Resources.
By using renewable energy from the sun, this project will avoid about 105,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions that would have been produced if the electricity had been generated using fossil fuels.
"TVA never stands still, and this NextEra Energy Resources project helps us meet our commitment to provide the 9 million people of the Tennessee Valley with reliable, low-cost, carbon-free electricity," said Van Wardlaw, executive vice president of external relations for TVA. "Over the next 20 years, TVA will invest about $8 billion to support our renewable energy portfolio, and we see a bright renewable energy future for projects like this across the Tennessee Valley."
The project has created a significant economic boost for Lauderdale County, creating about 350 jobs during the construction phase, with most of the workers coming from the local area. From labor and materials, to housing, health care and construction - a wide variety of local businesses have benefitted from the influx of economic activity.
"This project has provided good jobs for Lauderdale County residents, and businesses are enjoying the extra activity, too," said Lauderdale County Commissioner Joe Hackworth. "We are thrilled to host the state's largest solar facility and help realize the benefits it can bring to our community."
Over its operational life, the River Bend Solar Energy Center is expected to generate more than $9 million in property taxes, with the majority going to benefit the Lauderdale County School District.
"I know the school board will look at all of the opportunities these funds will provide," said Lauderdale County School Superintendent Jennifer Gray. "The funds will be a boost to many of the school district's future projects."