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Walton EMC signs solar contracts for Facebook
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Ronnie Lee

Silicon Ranch Project

-Location: Early County, Georgia

-Size (electrical): 102.5 mW (AC)

-Expected Completion: 2019

-Jobs created: construction – 400; operation and maintenance – two to three plus local contractors

The Early County facility will deploy the first locally-produced solar modules from Hanwha Q CELLS’s new manufacturing facility in Georgia, which is also the largest in the United States.

Strata Solar Projects

-Location: Calhoun and Colquitt Counties, Georgia

-Size (electrical): Calhoun – 80 mW (AC); Colquitt – 20 mW (AC)

- Expected Completion: 2020

- Jobs created: construction – 400; operation and maintenance – two to three plus local contractors

MONROE, Ga. — Walton Electric Membership Corp. has executed contracts with two solar developers for three new solar projects as part of its agreement to supply 100 percent renewable energy for Facebook’s data center in Newton County. The collaboration is the largest solar development project in Georgia.

Facebook chose Walton EMC as the power supplier for the Newton Data Center when it announced the 970,000-square-foot facility in March.

Silicon Ranch and Strata Solar will construct world-class solar power plants that will support the new data center. The facilities will be located in southwest Georgia.

“We are happy to welcome Silicon Ranch and Strata Solar to the quality partnership of Facebook, Walton EMC and Morgan Stanley to complete the groundbreaking energy supply arrangement for Facebook’s Newton Data Center,” Walton EMC CEO Ronnie Lee said. “Our unique agreements will serve as models for similar projects all across the country and bring noteworthy economic rewards locally.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Walton EMC, Silicon Ranch and Strata Solar to bring more than 200 megawatts of new solar resources to Georgia,” Rachel Peterson, vice president of data center strategy for Facebook, said. “We are committed to supporting all of Facebook’s operations with 100 percent renewable energy and these new solar facilities will help us meet that goal for our Newton Data Center. Developing these resources within the same electric grid that supports our data center will bring even more investment to the region.”

The Newton Data Center is Facebook’s ninth such state-of-the-art facility in the country. The centers are among the most advanced, energy-efficient facilities in the world. They use 38 percent less electricity than the average data center.

Economic boon for Georgia

The solar power plants will economically benefit local communities, with ripple effects felt all across the state.

Every facility will add substantial revenue to each county’s tax income which will benefit local school systems.

Construction will create more than 800 jobs, with additional employment for ongoing operation and maintenance. Local labor and local contractors will fill most of these positions.

The total investment of Silicon Ranch and Strata Solar will reach more than $230 million. Collectively, this is the largest solar development in Georgia, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Silicon Ranch Project in Early County will produce 102.5 megawatts of AC power and is expected to be completed in 2019. It will create 400 construction jobs with two to three operation and maintenance jobs, plus local contractors.

The facility will be deploy the first locally produced solar modules from Hanwha Q CELLS’ new manufacturing facility in Georgia, the largest in the U.S.

The Strata Solar projects include two facilities in southwest Georgia.

A Calhoun County plant will produce 80 megawatts of AC power while a Colquitt County facility will generate 20 megawatts of AC power.

They’re expected to be completed in 2020.

The facilities should generate 400 construction jobs with two to three employees for operation and maintenance, plus local contractors.

Growing Georgia’s economy with renewable energy

Facebook’s emphasis on siting renewable resources within the same electric grid as its data centers created an opportunity to bring additional investment in solar generation to Georgia. 

“Partnering on the project with a customer-focused, consumer-owned electric cooperative helped to inspire the collaboration,” Matt Kisber, CEO of Silicon Ranch, said. 

“Facebook and Walton EMC are driven by a ‘concern for community’ and a commitment to the customers they serve. These principles have made them global and national leaders in their respective markets,” said Kisber. “As the long-term owner of every solar project we develop, Silicon Ranch shares these values, and we are proud to support the renewable energy goals of Facebook’s Newton Data Center while bringing an economic shot in the arm to rural Georgia.”

“Innovative companies like Facebook, partnered with customer-focused utilities like Walton EMC, are driving renewable energy growth across the country," said Markus Wilhelm, CEO of Strata Solar.

"Strata is proud to bring our reputation for quality and efficiency to two more projects in Georgia,” he said. “By partnering on clean energy projects like these, we can grow the Georgia economy while bringing significant benefits to local communities.”