Silicon Ranch raises $225 million in equity capital

(Originally posted on The Tennessean

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch Corp., a solar power producer, recently closed an investment round that attracted $225 million in equity capital, funded entirely by existing shareholders.

This equity raise will support the increase of Silicon Ranch’s portfolio of solar projects, which has operations in more than 15 states including several across Tennessee. The raise will specifically lead to an additional 1 gigawatt of new projects in the next two years.

The equity raise and ongoing support from shareholders will further Silicon Ranch’s growth and enable the company to make capital investments across the country by developing new projects in new markets and pursuing strategic acquisition opportunities.

Co-founded by former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2011, develops-to-own solar farm projects with more than 135 solar farms across the country including the first large-scale solar projects in Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Silicon Ranch is the U.S. solar platform for Shell, and works with partners such as the U.S. military, America’s electric cooperatives, and TVA.

Advanced Energy 101 series emphasizes benefits of advanced energy solutions for LPCs across the Tennessee Valley

TAEBC and Seven States Power recently wrapped up the virtual Advanced Energy 101 webinar series for local power companies. The three-part series focused on combined heat and power technologies; energy storage and demand response; and financing models for distributed generation.

The first webinar, “Combined Heat and Power,” featured panelists: Isaac Panzarella, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southeast Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership (CHP TAP) located at North Carolina State University; Emily Robertson, Business Development Team Manager, 2G Energy; and Ben Edgar, CEO, White Harvest Energy. 

Panelists spoke about the benefits of combined heat and power (CHP), pathways for utility involvement in CHP projects, types of CHP systems, and who might benefit from this advanced energy technology. Edgar concluded with a case study of White Harvest Energy’s installation of a 4 x 2,000 kW CHP facility at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

During an audience Q&A, Robertson remarked that standard CHP candidates would be “hospitals, universities, wastewater treatment plants, food waste producers” and “manufacturing facilities that have round-the-clock operations.” She noted that mining, renewable natural gas, and grocery store industries are also becoming increasingly interested in CHP. Panzarella added that he is seeing rising interest from hotels, along with state and local government facilities due to a need for grid “resiliency” and to protect critical infrastructure.  

The second webinar in the series, “Energy Storage and Demand Response,” featured panelists: Bradley Greene, Energy Storage Manager, Signal Energy; Clint Wilson, VP, Engineering & Energy Innovations, Seven States Power; and Simon Sandler, Project Engineer, North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.

Panelists provided an overview of energy storage and demand response; emphasized the value of storage for LPCs; discussed relevant energy storage programs and projects; and talked about the benefits of this technology for LPCs. In his presentation, Wilson highlighted successful energy storage systems in the Tennessee Valley, including Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage. 

Answering an audience question about critical factors LPCs should weigh when considering battery storage, Wilson said “all LPCs can participate in battery storage” and reminded attendees it does not fall under TVA’s flexibility provision, where LPCs may generate up to 5 percent of their own energy. Answering a question about the typical lead time for an energy storage system, Greene and Wilson estimate anywhere from eight to 18 months, while Sandler said the time could be 12 to 24 depending on the system. 

The final webinar, “Traditional and Innovative Financing Models for Distributed Generation,” featured panelists: Steve Seifried, Tennessee Solutions Executive, Ameresco; Christian Dick, Sr. Project Developer, Large Scale Distributed Energy Resources, Ameresco; Matt Brown, Vice President, Business Development, Silicon Ranch Corporation; and Virginia A. Williams, Senior Vice President, Project Finance, Silicon Ranch Corporation. Steve Noe, Director, Strategic Energy Solutions, Seven States Power, provided opening and closing remarks.

During the webinar, panelists discussed LPC goals and definitions for distributed energy; financing and ownership models; and how to procure the optimal partner and solution. Matt Brown said, “As an LPC, understand your goals and what you as a customer want to achieve. We as an industry want to strategically locate facilities that add resiliency and benefits to all involved.” They spoke about financing tools and structures, along with opportunities and questions LPCs should consider in determining the right financing model for future projects. 

“I want to thank TAEBC for their leadership in the Valley and sponsorship of the series,” said Noe in his closing remarks. 

Did you miss any of the Advanced Energy 101 webinars? Follow these links to watch “Combined Heat and Power (Passcode: xm73Vk@x),” “Energy Storage and Demand Response (Passcode: s3adDu++),” and “Traditional and Innovative Financing Models for Distributed Generation (Passcode: a3*3Sf?I).”

Want to view the panelists’ presentations? From the first webinar, here are Panzarella, Robertson, and Edgar’s presentations. For the second event, here are Greene, Wilson and Sandler’s presentations. Lastly, here is Seifried’s presentation from the final webinar. 

Please visit the TAEBC calendar for future events.

Clearloop partners with first business, aims to help businesses reduce carbon footprints

Nashville-based Clearloop recently partnered with its first business, Boston-based Impact Snacks, a healthy snack company that “reclaims more carbon than it makes, produces no plastic and harnesses the power of collective action leaving nothing behind except for a better, cleaner world.”

Founded by former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Laura Zapata, and Bob Corney in 2019, Clearloop aims to “accelerate the greening of the U.S. electricity grid in the next 10 years through the force of everyday actions.” The startup helps companies “measure, reclaim and track” their carbon footprint with new renewable energy facilities. 

“We’re trying to partner with different businesses in a way similar to crowdfunding to build these facilities that would produce enough energy to power 200 homes in the Jackson area,” said Zapata. Zapata and Corney worked on Bredesen’s staff when he was governor. 

With this new partnership, Clearloop will build its first megawatt-producing solar facility near Silicon Ranch Corporation’s 2-megawatt solar farm in Jackson, Tennessee. Bredesen serves as the Founding Chairman of the Board for Silicon Ranch Corporation, a valued Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council member. 

Clearloop’s mission is to help businesses of all sizes partner to build renewable energy facilities to generate clean energy and decrease or completely eliminate their carbon footprint. 

“I see it as a way of really reaching into a different world of companies that are not the big dogs, who have got some C-suite executive worrying about sustainability, like Walmart does or Procter & Gamble does,” Bredesen told The Associated Press

Zapata said the company intends to announce more partnerships later this year.

Two TAEBC members place in Solar Power World’s 2020 Top 100 Solar Contractors list

Solar Power World, the industry’s leading source for technology, development and installation news, has unveiled its 2020 Top Solar Contractors list. The list ranks applicants according to their influence in the U.S. solar industry in 2019.

This year TAEBC member Silicon Ranch Corporation ranked #19 on the list, installing 282,544 kW in 2019 and a grand total of 829,000 kW installed since its founding.

Silicon Ranch is the U.S. solar platform for Shell and one of the largest independent solar power producers in the country. Silicon Ranch’s work with a diverse set of customers across the country, including Fortune 500 companies and electric cooperatives, demonstrates its ability to customize solutions that ensure successful outcomes. The company’s operating portfolio includes more than 135 facilities across 14 states from New York to California, including the first large-scale solar projects in Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Silicon Ranch was also selected as 2020’s ‘Most Forward-Thinking’ company by Solar Power World for its pioneering work with Regenerative EnergyTM. In addition to earning this prestigious honor, Silicon Ranch was further recognized as the #2 solar developer in the publication’s annual rankings of the Top Solar Contractors, up a spot from its third-place finish in 2019.

TAEBC member Ameresco, headquartered in Massachusetts but with locations in Tennessee, ranked #78 on the list, installing 22,611 kW in 2019 and 245,792 kW since its founding.

Ameresco is a leading independent provider of comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for facilities throughout North America and the United Kingdom, delivering long-term value through innovative systems, strategies and technologies. Ameresco’s solutions range from upgrades to facility’s energy infrastructure to the development, construction and operation of renewable energy plants combined with tailored financial solutions. The company works with customers on both sides of the meter to reduce operating expenses, upgrade and maintain facilities, stabilize energy costs, improve occupancy comfort levels, increase energy reliability and enhance the environment.

You can view the complete list of rankings on Solar Power World’s website.

Disclosure: The list details the headquarters location of a company, employees, its primary market (utility, commercial, residential) and its primary service (EPC, developer, rooftop contractor, installation subcontractor, electrical subcontractor, manufacturer installer). Companies choose their primary market and primary service. That does not mean they only work in these areas. They could work across all markets and all services, and their listed kilowatts reflect their cumulative installation numbers from the last year in all markets, services and states. Ranks are determined by the number of kilowatts (DC) a company was involved with installing in 2019 in the United States only. If two companies reported the same 2019 numbers, they were sorted by total kilowatts installed.

TAEBC Annual Meeting 2020 highlights transportation electrification initiatives, advanced energy leadership

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) held another successful Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub earlier this month.

TNECD Commissioner and TDEC Commissioner Featured speakers included Commissioner Bob Rolfe of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) and Commissioner David Salyers of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), who spoke about electric vehicles (EV) and their role in Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

The event kicked off with TAEBC awarding Dan Hurst, CEO and founder of Strata-G, with the second-ever Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award, which honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. Last year, the inaugural award went to Ballard himself.  

“As a founding board member of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, Dan Hurst embodies the qualities of a servant leader,” said Cortney Piper, Executive Director and Vice President of TAEBC. “His dedication and commitment to building a new organization that represents an entire industry that makes Tennessee a better state in which to live, work and play is truly admirable. That same vision and devotion have enabled Dan to lead and grow a successful business in East Tennessee that embraces energy innovation, environmental stewardship and sustainability.”

Schneider Electric’s Vice President of Power Products, Emily Heitman, welcomed TAEBC to Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub and reinforced the company’s commitment to doing business in Tennessee. Her presentation was followed by Piper, who outlined TAEBC’S top achievements in 2019 and emphasized the organization’s goals and priorities moving into 2020. 

Next, Silicon Ranch Corporation’s Director of Regenerative Energy and Land Management, Michael Baute, spoke about the company’s holistic approach to solar power plant design, construction, and operations. Since launching Regenerative Energy with one 52-acre project in 2018, the program has grown exponentially with 31 projects on 5,923 acres throughout five states this year.

On TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network Panel, Helge Nestler, Founder and President of Ginko Technologies, pitched his startup and mission to accelerate the use of sustainable waste treatment methods to reduce landfills and recover energy from waste. Afterwards, he was joined by Ira Weiss, Energy Mentor Network Entrepreneur-in-Residence and principal of Weiss Associates, for a panel discussion about Nestler’s entrepreneurial journey and value of the Energy Mentor Network program for startups like Ginko Technologies.

Later, Drew Frye, Senior Power Utilization Engineer at TVA, spoke about EV trends and the utility’s EV strategy for the state. In addition to providing a 10-year snapshot of the role of EVs from 2010 until now, Frye highlighted TVA’s role with Drive Electric Tennessee and what is next on the horizon for TVA, including improving charging infrastructure, enhancing consumer awareness, promoting supportive EV policies, and ensuring EV availability. 

Commissioner Salyers also spoke about Drive Electric Tennessee and the continued development of a statewide EV charging network. He reinforced TDEC’s commitment to providing a cleaner, safer environment and support for technologies that reduce emissions and improve air quality. Through its electrification efforts, “TDEC seeks to improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and strengthen the resiliency of the transportation sector.”  

“Our vision for Tennessee is to become a leader in the electric transportation space,” remarked Salyers. “Electric vehicles have the potential to make our transportation system both more efficient and more resilient. We are excited to continue working alongside our fantastic partners to achieve these benefits.”

During Commissioner Rolfe’s TNECD update, he emphasized how the agency’s “first job” is to create high-quality jobs for Tennesseans. His second job, explained Rolfe, is to make sure the companies that call Tennessee home “are happy,” such as Volkswagen, Nissan, and others who are focused on EV efforts. 

“We’re going to focus on recruiting companies to Tennessee that are focused on the electric vehicle business because we think it’s here to stay,” said Rolfe. “For Tennessee to remain number one in the southeast, we’re going to be doubling down on those efforts.”

After their presentations, Saylers and Rolfe held a joint Q&A session, where they answered a range of audience questions. For example, when asked what TAEBC can do to support the state’s efforts in propelling electrification efforts further, Saylers emphasized the importance of workforce development programs that promote technical training for jobs that support the state’s advanced energy economy.

Rolfe echoed Sayler’s statements, adding, “a lot of good things are happening in Tennessee, but what we can continue to do is to make it the most inviting, business friendly state to come do business in.”