Facebook's first solar project in the state of Georgia is now operational in Early County. Facebook representatives joined Walton Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) and Silicon Ranch today to "flip the switch" on the 102.5 megawatt (MWAC) solar facility in a special ceremony at the project site. State and local officials joined more than 100 guests to help celebrate the milestone achievement.
Facebook chose Walton EMC as the power supplier for its data center in Newton County when it announced the facility in March 2018. As part of its agreement to supply 100 percent renewable energy for the Newton Data Center, Walton EMC announced a contract in December 2018 with Silicon Ranch.
The resulting solar project has yielded tangible economic benefits across the state. To support Facebook's data center and corresponding investments in Newton County, Silicon Ranch employed more than 675 people in Early County over the past ten months to assemble and install single-axis trackers that utilize NEXTracker's TrueCapture smart control system, enabling more than 350,000 solar modules to track the sun from east to west across more than 1,200 acres. The locally-sourced modules were among the first produced by Hanwha Q CELLS at its new manufacturing facility in Whitfield County.
"This project is representative of the cooperative approach to economic development across our state that has made Georgia a leader in innovative fields like solar energy," said Governor Brian P. Kemp. "The world-class solar cells manufactured by Hanwha Q CELLS in northeast Georgia and installed at Silicon Ranch's solar field in Early County are paving the way for leading companies with a focus on sustainability – like Facebook – to find a home in Georgia. That cooperation, facilitated by our outstanding local economic development partners like Walton EMC, is a large part of what has earned Georgia the title of No. 1 State for Business for seven consecutive years, and I am excited for the future of the solar energy industry in our state."
In addition to sourcing locally-made solar modules, Silicon Ranch has introduced another unique feature for the project in Early County. The solar farm is Silicon Ranch's first new-build site to incorporate its holistic approach to land management, which it has trademarked as Regenerative Energy™. The innovative approach keeps the property in agricultural production, as adaptively-managed grazing livestock, diverse plant life, pollinator habitat, and wildlife work together to revitalize degraded soils, enhance biodiversity, make ecosystems more resilient, improve the watershed, and sequester carbon in the soil. Quantifiable ecological, economic, and social outcomes are backed by third-party verified standards.
"Less than two years ago, Facebook, Morgan Stanley, and Walton EMC came together to design a landmark energy supply arrangement for Facebook's Newton Data Center, and today marks an important milestone toward honoring the commitments we made," said Walton EMC CEO Ronnie Lee. "On behalf of our Board of Directors and the entire team at Walton EMC, I want to express our sincere appreciation to Silicon Ranch for their steadfast dedication to deliver this world-class facility right on schedule."
"We are committed to supporting all of Facebook's operations with 100% renewable energy, and we are thrilled that this new solar project will help us meet that goal for our Newton Data Center," said Urvi Parekh, Head of Renewable Energy at Facebook. "We thank Silicon Ranch and Walton EMC for their continued partnership and for sharing our commitment to have a positive impact on the communities where we locate."
"Silicon Ranch is honored by the confidence and trust that Walton EMC and Facebook placed in our company to execute on their behalf," said Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO Reagan Farr. "One of our guiding principles is that 'we do what we say we will do,' and I want to thank all of our project partners, including our friends in Early County, for helping us to keep our promises to Walton EMC and Facebook."
As a tribute to the history of Early County, the project team has named the facility the Bancroft Station Solar Farm in honor of the original name of the local area.
In November, Walton EMC announced a second agreement with Silicon Ranch on behalf of Facebook to support the Newton Data Center with renewable energy. The 107 MWAC facility will be located in southeast Georgia and is scheduled to come online in 2021.