Southern Co., Turner acquire 30-MW solar plant

Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) has acquired the largest direct current solar tracking array of its kind, which is the third facility jointly acquired by Southern and Turner Renewable Energy.

The Spectrum Solar Facility, a 30-MW solar photovoltaic installation, will have greater DC capacity than any tracking-based installation in the United States. Tracking technology enables greater operating efficiency by optimally directing solar panels as the sun moves across the sky.

Construction of the project is expected to begin in October on a 311-acre site in Clark County, Nev., with commercial operation anticipated during the second quarter of 2013. The plant’s output will serve a 25-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy (NYSE: NVE).

The plant will be built, operated and maintained by SunEdison, a provider of solar energy services and a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE: WFR).

“Southern Company is committed to energy innovation and leads our industry in proprietary research and development,” said Southern Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Fanning in a Sept. 28 statement. “This project pushes the boundaries of solar energy by harnessing the power of large-scale tracking technology.”

Ted Turner first teamed with Southern in January 2010 to develop renewable energy projects in the U.S. The partnership’s first project was the acquisition and development of the 30-MW Cimarron Solar Facility near Raton, N.M. It was, at the time of purchase, the largest solar PV plant in the nation. In June 2012, the companies made their second purchase, the 20-MW Apex Solar Facility located in North Las Vegas, Nev. The project went into full commercial operation in the third quarter of 2012.

“It’s gratifying to see that our partnership with Southern Company is achieving its goal of expanding large-scale solar power generation and demonstrating the technology’s feasibility as a commercial-scale electricity source,” Turner said. “Southern Company is taking a leadership position in finding innovative solutions to diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio with a greater mix of renewables, and we’re pleased to be a partner in that effort.”

Turner Renewable Energy is wholly owned by Ted Turner. Turner Enterprises Inc., a private company, manages the business interests, land holdings and investments of the cable television magnate.