Commissioning ceremony held for Elora Solar Energy


Photo by Laurie Caruso

Representatives from NextEra Energy Resources, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Meta, Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU), local officials, Industrial Development Board, landowners and others gathered last Thursday morning in Elora for the Commissioning Ceremony of the new large-scale Elora Solar Energy Center.

Both Lincoln County and the state of Tennessee stand to benefit from the project due to the growing clean energy economy in the state. The project features more than 500,000 solar panels situated on more than 1,500-acres of farmland capable of generating up to 150 megawatts of low-cost, home-grown energy.

Construction lasted 17 months and reportedly generated a significant local economic boost to Lincoln County and the state, by creating approximately 250 construction jobs and stimulating the purchase of regional goods and services from local vendors. Over the next 20 years, the project is expected to generate millions of dollars in additional tax revenue for Lincoln County. Additionally, the facility doesn’t require water to generate electricity and doesn’t create air or water pollution.

Speaker Stuart McCurdy, vice president of Renewable Development, NextEra Energy Resources, expressed his sincere gratitude to everyone involved in the project. “These things are years in the making and truly take a team effort to bring them to fruition … we’re super excited to be in the valley and Lincoln County. It’s a big accomplishment for everybody,” McCurdy said. “This is one of the largest in the state and the valley as well.”

TVA Regional Vice President Justin Maierhofer explained that TVA’s partnership to build this 150-megawatt solar installation will support Meta’s regional data centers with 100% renewable energy. “TVA aspires to be net zero carbon by 2050,” Maierhofer stated. “The projected emissions reduction in just this installation, y’all is equivalent to removing 60,000 traditional cars from the road each year.”

Bryce Dalley, Meta head of Energy Supply, spoke after Maierhofer, saying, “At Meta we’re committed to building the most efficient data centers in the world. Here in Tennessee, we are building a 1-million square-foot data center in Gallatin, and not too far from here, we’re building a 2.5-million square-foot data center in Huntsville.”

A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources built, owns and will operate the project. The energy will support Meta’s regional data centers via the TVA’s Green Invest Program which matches customers to in-Valley, utility-scale renewable projects.

FPU’s partnership with TVA began 35-years ago, said Britt Dye, CEO and general manager of FPU. “We look forward to partnering with Elora Solar Energy Center, NextEra Energy Resources and Meta for many years,” Dye said. “Lincoln County, as well as the entire Tennessee Valley, will benefit from this project.”

In May 2019 Lincoln County residents were invited to meet with Next Era Energy Resources about the proposed project. Later, in November 2019 TVA invited the public to provide input on a draft environmental assessment for the Elora Solar Energy Center Project. TVA had entered into a power purchase agreement with Elora Solar LLC to purchase the power generated by the proposed project. Elora Solar LLC was to construct and operate and maintain a single axis tracking photovoltaic solar power facility of up to 150 megawatts AC generating capacity.

Members of the Lincoln County High School’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) presented the colors at the ceremony. Members of the Lincoln County High School band played the National Anthem prior to the guest speakers, as well as popular tunes following the ceremonial commissioning.


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