Corn, rye and barley have always played big roles in producing Tennessee whiskey, and solar energy will soon be added to the mix at one well-known distillery with a decades-long connection to its electric cooperative, Duck River Electric Membership Corp.
“Jack Daniel’s has been in Metro Moore County for over 150 years, and they have been a valued member of DREMC for more than 80 years,” said Scott Spence, the co-op’s president and CEO. “As they have grown and modernized, Duck River EMC has been there to support them in achieving their energy goals.”
Early projects included co-op advice on wiring plant buildings for electric lighting, followed by consultations on upgrading plant equipment for electric machinery. When Jack Daniel’s began searching for ways to support renewable energy, it again turned to its Shelbyville, Tennessee-based distribution co-op. The result is an agreement with Duck River and the Tennessee Valley Authority that’s expected to meet nearly 75% of the electricity needs at the iconic Lynchburg distillery.
“When the Jack Daniel’s team reached out to DREMC regarding their sustainability goals, we immediately began work to find a solution that made sense for their business,” said Billy Tiller, Duck River’s vice president of engineering.
That led to talks with TVA and Nashville-based solar power producer Silicon Ranch, an NRECA platinum associate member, regarding the 200-megawatt solar array under development in Moore County, Tennessee. Silicon Ranch will construct the facility over the next two years on land once owned by the Motlow family, which has ties to distillery founder Jack Daniel.
The 2,500-acre site, once known as Motlow Range, was an artillery training base during World War II. The Motlows were among the earliest members of the co-op, and their descendants are among its consumer-members today. The family owns the Cumberland Springs Land Co., and Silicon Ranch partnered with them to develop the project.
The land has lain fallow for several years, so development of the solar farm will actually have a net positive impact on the region’s agricultural production, as Silicon Ranch will restore the land to a functioning grassland ecosystem through managed sheep grazing.
Silicon Ranch will design, fund, build, own, operate and maintain the facility, and Metro Government of Nashville is expected to take the largest amount of power produced at the site, along with the Knoxville Utilities Board and Vanderbilt University. About 20 MW of its capacity is included in a power purchase agreement with TVA and reserved for distillery use.
“TVA, Jack Daniel’s and Duck River are excellent neighbors who are valuable assets to our community,” said Mayor Bonnie Lewis of Metro Lynchburg-Moore County. “Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world tour the distillery, and this solar farm from our newest corporate citizen, Silicon Ranch, will be another attraction as they provide additional construction jobs and tax revenue to Moore County.”
Dubbed the Moore County Solar Project, it is part of TVA’s Green Invest program, which leverages the public power model by matching customer sustainability needs with new, renewable energy projects through a competitive bid process.
“We’re excited to be the first distillery to sign a Green Invest deal that will provide nearly three-quarters of our electricity needs,” said Melvin Keebler, the distillery’s vice president and assistant general manager. “Now the world’s most iconic whiskey is even greener.”
Besides being one of Duck River’s leading commercial-industrial accounts, the area’s major employer and a top regional tourism destination, the distillery has also hosted community events.
“We have witnessed great things happen over the years through Jack Daniel’s investment in the Metro-Lynchburg, Moore County community, and this is no exception,” said Spence. “Duck River is thrilled to be a part of this project.”
Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.