Sunday, January 29, 2012

Georgia Solar Farm Oroject with TN Ties Gets Final Approval

A $90 million solar-power project in rural Georgia being developed by Nashville music executive Steve Ivey and a company founded by former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen received final approval Tuesday from the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The Simon Solar Farm will feature an array of solar panels that will produce 30 megawatts of electricity, which will be sold to Georgia Power Co. under a contract that was signed in December pending approval by the Public Service Commission.

The project will be built on the 200-acre farm that Ivey’s grandparents, Robert Simons and Lily Belle Studdard Simons, bought in 1935 near Social Circle, Ga., about 40 miles east of Atlanta. They had grown cotton on the land, said Ivey, who owns IMI, a Music Row publishing house and studio.

“The commission voted 5-0 to approve it,” Ivey said Wednesday. “It was a good day for Simon Solar. Our next step is to figure out the construction start date. We’re slated to have the facility on line by June 1, 2015, but if we can do it earlier, we will.”

Ivey and his partners are working on arranging financing for the project, he said.

“There are several options out there, and we are working hard to make this a successful event for the state of Georgia,” Ivey said.

Ivey started Simon Solar Farm LLC in 2010 to develop the project, which he initially financed by himself. He brought in Bredesen’s firm, the Nashville-based Silicon Ranch Corp., in December when Simon Solar signed the 20-year agreement to sell the electricity to Georgia Power.

Silicon Ranch, founded in late 2010 by Bredesen and two members of his former administration, Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr, will join with Ivey to build the project on about 175 acres of the farm, but the land will remain under Ivey’s ownership.

Technical assistance will be provided by Germany-based Phoenix Solar Inc., said Kisber, who is president and chief executive of Silicon Ranch.

Kisber was Tennessee’s commissioner of economic and community development under Bredesen, who is chairman of Silicon Ranch. Farr, who was the state revenue commissioner, is vice chairman and chief operating officer.

A mandate from the Georgia Public Service Commission that Georgia Power develop a large-scale solar program led to the Simon Solar project and a separate one, by an unrelated company, that will produce 20 megawatts of electricity on another site in Georgia.


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