Solar farm could soon be powered up

Robert Houk • Nov 27, 2018 at 10:16 PM

Officials with BrightRidge hope to flip the switch on the area’s first solar farm in January.

BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes told the utility’s board members Tuesday that contractors are “working hard, even through the rain” to complete construction by the end of the year.

“If the weather cooperates, we will have the farm completed in December,” he said. “Hopefully, we can have the dedication in January.”

Mark Eades, BrightRidge’s chief engineering and technology officer, said  41,000 solar panels have been installed on a 40-acre tract off Miller Road between Jonesborough and Telford, and a transmission line to Tenn. Highway 34 is now in place.

The solar farm, which will be owned and operated by Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, allows BrightRidge to offer its customers access to a sustainable and renewable energy source that could power 500 homes. The facility will be capable of generating 8 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

“Solar is something that our community thinks is vital and wants,” Dykes told board members.

Earlier this month, Dykes was honored by the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association as one of its 2018 Solar Champions for his efforts to bring the 5-megawatt solar farm to Washington County. He and the BrightRidge staff was also presented a resolution of appreciation Tuesday for their work on solar energy by BrightRide Board Chairwoman B.J. King and the utility’s board of directors.

In other business, board members received their first broadband update as part of the utility’s monthly financial report. Brian Bolling, BrightRidge’s chief financial and customer officer, said the financial “presentation will grow as the infrastructure grows.”

The utility launched its broadband division in September. It includes a $7.3 million capital budget that is now concentrating on building the infrastructure it will need to provide broadband internet via fiber and wireless technology as part of an eight-year plan. Bolling said the utility has spent $251,789 of its technology budget since September.

BrightRidge has also been given a thumbs up for its finances. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, who heads the board’s Finance, Audit, Rate and Budget Committee, said auditors with Blackburn, Childers & Steagall have given the utility a “clean, unqualified report with no findings,” which he told his colleagues is “about as good as it gets.”

Auditors found no deficiencies in BrightRidge’s internal financial controls.






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