Vanderbilt University, Nashville sign power contracts for 125 MW solar project


Vanderbilt University is on track to become 100% powered by renewable energy after subscribing to a 25-MW portion of a 125-MW solar project contracted by Nashville Electric Service, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the university.

The remaining 100 MW of generation will be purchased by the City of Nashville’s Metro General Government operations and will put Metro over one-third of the way toward being sourced with 100% renewable energy.

Metro-Nashville has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with TVA. It’s likely that the Vanderbilt deal will end up being similar to Metro’s PPA.

The energy contract will enable Metro to meet a 2025 benchmark for renewables established by City Council legislation. The array will also meet Metro’s 2025 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) energy-source requirements at an added cost of less than 0.70% to Metro’s electricity bill. Representatives for the city share that the marginal costs can be neutralized through planned investments in efficiency retrofits for older buildings.

Metro’s RPS requires the city to be entirely powered by carbon-free, renewable energy by 2040, with further requirements that at least 10% of that 2040 electricity be generated from solar installations.

Project specifics

The project’s construction is being done under the TVA Green Invest program and the announcement makes Metro-Nashville the first local government to pursue access to Green Invest in TVA territory.

The project will be developed and constructed by Silicon Ranch in Tullahoma, Tennessee. 125 MW may not be the site’s final capacity, as Silicon Ranch was selected through TVA’s 2020 competitive procurement process for construction of up to 200 megawatts of solar at the site. The project is expected to achieve commercial operation during the fall of 2023 and construction is estimated to create roughly 500 jobs.

Upon completion, the project will be among the largest in the state, coming in behind only the 150-MW installation being built for Facebook in Yum Yum. The two projects will bring a combined 275 MW on new solar generation to Tennessee, which is home to just 350 MW thus far.

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