Clear blue skies and golden sunlight greeted attendees at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for Jackson’s new renewable energy source, the Clearloop Solar Farm.
A start-up developed by Clearloop CEO Laura Zapata, former Governor Phil Bredesen and renewable energy entrepreneur Bob Corney, the company has set a goal of producing 1 million watts of solar power on their property. from highway 70.
Thanks to the investments of many companies in the project, this goal is set to become a reality as around 2,300 solar panels are preparing to be installed.
The energy, which will be pumped into the Jackson Energy Authority and dispersed throughout the city, will power 200 homes in Jackson over the next 40 years.
“We’re really excited,” said Zapata, who smiled as she pointed to the huge field behind her. “We are launching our very first solar project right here in Jackson, Tennessee… Jackson has very sunny skies, flat land and a really welcoming community. People here have been very receptive to the idea that we can do these solar projects. “
The company, which operates similarly to a crowdfunding project, allows companies to invest in the number of solar panels that would reverse the effects of their 2020 carbon footprint, “closing the loop” on clean energy.
When previously reported by the Jackson Sun, Clearloop was approaching its goal of 1 million watts thanks to an investment made by Vista Equity partners.
Following renewed interest throughout the summer, Clearloop hit its target with investments from across the country, such as local musician Jason Isbell, children’s clothing company Hello Bello and new author. Yorker Stacy Clark, who has written a children’s book on renewable energy.
“The purpose of my book is to show people that you don’t have to plunder the land,” Clark said. “Kind of like why we are here today.”
Kyle Spurgeon, President and CEO of the Jackson Chamber, is equally excited about the possibilities offered by this company.
“This project today is more than Clearloop’s announcement of a solar project here in Jackson,” he said. “These are jobs. Because when we’re looking to recruit a new industry and help the existing industry grow in West Tennessee and Jackson, being able to talk about renewable energy assets is something we need to be able to say, “Yes, we do. can help you with that ”.
“It’s just like fiber optic connectivity was in the late 90s and early 2000s. It became something that, back then, was nice to have, but then needed. . Renewable energy is now something that is needed to recruit new industries and help the existing industry to grow.
Echoing Spurgeon’s statement – though perhaps less clearly – a flock of sheep roamed behind him on the Clearloop property. Although a seemingly random addition to the event, cattle are an integral part of the clean energy process. Instead of hiring mowers to maintain the property, and therefore use gas, Clearloop works with local farmers to allow herds of sheep and goats to graze and land.
“The sheep are there to help us take care of our land,” Zapata said. “This is part of a regenerative energy program led by Silicon Ranch. The idea is to work with the local farmers and ranchers to bring their animals here and take care of the land… We are really excited to be doing that and using less chemicals to take care of this land.
Trey Lawrence, owner of Tall Oak Farm and Land Management, is excited about this partnership.
“We are grazing for Silicon Ranch and made it to Clearloop through this partnership,” he said. “We have to take care of everything, not to break anything, not to let go of a thread. This is why sheep are great for this. They do not hit anything and do not tear anything.
According to Lawrence, whose farm has about 200 sheep, the Clearloop property will require a rotation of about 40 sheep to tend the grass.
Prior to the deployment of these sensitive fuzzy lawn mowers, however, the solar farm will undergo rapid construction and be ready to power Jackson homes by July 2022.
“In 2062, when you look at this area, it will still produce clean energy,” Zapata said proudly. “We are really excited about the possibilities and the fact that what we are doing today will generate clean energy for a whole generation. “
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