By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

The Board of Directors of Jonesborough’s local energy provider, BrightRidge, has elected to offer its customers the opportunity to buy into its “solar community” project.

“BrightRidge is earning the revenue stream by serving as the interconnection between Silicon Ranch, the generator in this case, and (the Tennessee Valley Authority),” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said in a press release.

“We are returning 95 percent of that revenue stream directly to participating customers, retaining only five percent to help cover some of the administrative cost of the program.”

Silicon Ranch, which will operate the Jonesborough-area farm, is a Nashville-based company that “is one of the largest independent solar power producers in the country,” the company’s website states.

“We develop-to-own all of our solar farm projects, and have a 100 percent track record of seeing them through from start to finish.”

Also noted on the site is that the Nashville renewable energy company counts over 120 solar farms in 14 states country-wide. 

According to the BrightRidge press release, “Those buying into the project will receive a return assuming the solar farm produces as expected.

“Customers, however, should be aware that actual production will vary depending on weather and the rate of deterioration in solar panel performance, with generation degrading as the panels age.”

For customers who choose to participate, there will be two options available.

One is a month-to-month lease while the alternative is a 20 year license. The options will provide access to 500 kilowatts (kW) of solar generation at the solar farm under construction near Telford.

For a monthly leasing example, the press release stated, “If a residential customer leases a One kW block of solar generation on a month-to-month basis, the customer would earn $413.98 over a 20-year lease period, a return of 2.87 percent. All earnings will be shown as a credit on the power bill that can be applied against any future bill.”

For the 20-year option, BrightRidge explained, “A potential 1 kW block leased for 20 years would cost $750 up front and earn the participant $863.98 over the (20 year) period, a return of 5.76 percent for the customer.”

While consumers have the option to install solar panels on their property, there are limits. “Most customers are unable to tap into solar because they can’t afford the installation and maintenance costs, their rooftop can’t support the weight, or they live in a multi-family unit,” Dykes said.

“Community solar allows customers to participate without those drawbacks and in the case of this program only, the customer can actually earn a return on the investment … this is a huge benefit to our customers.”

While Silicon Ranch is building (using McCarthy Contractors as the construction company) the solar farm and will operate it as well, the opportunity for BrightRidge was beneficial for the utility company.

Dykes said, “BrightRidge could not afford to offer this program to our customers if they were purchasing land, permits and equipment to build our own solar farm.

“However, through the joint participation of BrightRidge and Silicon Ranch in the TVA Distributed Solar Solutions program, the Board is able to return a portion of the solar revenue stream to our solar community customers.

“In exchange for its participation in the project, BrightRidge will receive 500 kW worth of energy to license its customers for 20 years under its solar community project. BrightRidge’s Board moved Tuesday to pass along the financial benefit to customers participating in the community solar project.”

The only direct investment from BrightRidge will be potentially $40,000 to construct the interconnection infrastructure that will link the Silicon Ranch solar farm to the local power grid.