Jack and Solar—TVA Links Iconic Distillery With Renewable Energy

The trend of supplying commercial and industrial locations with renewable energy—along with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) continuing support of investments in power projects that support sustainability—is being recognized at one of the most-iconic distilleries in the U.S.

The TVA on April 13 said it has signed a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with Nashville-based solar power developer Silicon Ranch Corp. to provide 20 MW of solar capacity to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. The project is a partnership among TVA, Silicon Ranch, and the Duck River Electric Membership Corp., an electric cooperative that has served the area since 1936. The Knoxville Utilities Board, which provides services to eastern Tennessee, is involved as well.

Silicon Ranch will build, own, and operate the solar facility that will be located just a few miles from the distillery in Moore County.

Green Invest Program

TVA on Tuesday said the solar project is the latest to be announced as part of the utility’s Green Invest program, which already is using solar farms to help provide a variety of customers, including auto manufacturers, cities, data centers, local power companies, and universities with electricity.

“Our commitment to making great whiskey is only matched by our commitment to preserving the world we call home through sustainable practices,” said Melvin Keebler, Jack Daniel’s vice president and assistant general manager. “We’re excited to be the first distillery to sign a Green Invest deal that will provide nearly three-quarters of our electricity needs. Now the world’s most iconic whiskey is even greener.”

The visitors center at the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, in a normal year sees about 300,000 people pass through. Courtesy: Tennessee Valley Authority

Jack Daniel’s is part of the Brown-Forman group, which includes several brands of spirits. The company, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, includes sustainability as part of its business strategy. The Lynchburg distillery has a zero-waste to landfill policy, along with programs to protect the water and wood used to make its whiskey. Brown-Forman has said the Jack Daniel’s distillery sends 99% of materials from the distillery to be reused or recycled.

“This announcement demonstrates the environmental leadership of Jack Daniel’s and Duck River, fueled by our shared long-term commitment to renewable energy and community engagement,” said Chris Hansen, TVA vice president, Origination and Renewables. “TVA’s Green Invest program is the nexus for any organization interested in making renewable energy a part of their business.”

Rob Hamilton, corporate communication manager for Silicon Ranch Corp., told POWER, “No matter where you are in the world, if you tell someone that you are from Tennessee odds are that their response will be an emphatic ‘Jack Daniel’s!’ It is an honor to work with Duck River EMC and continue our partnership with TVA in support of this iconic landmark for our home state.”

Hamilton said the project is Silicon Ranch’s first for a distillery, but he noted that as both distilleries and breweries across the country continue to commit to renewable energy, “we don’t expect it to be our last … we’ve certainly seen this commitment become the standard for all types of businesses across the country and around the world.”

Silicon Ranch previously has done projects supporting companies such as Facebook and General Motors, in addition to Vanderbilt University and others.

$2.7 Billion in Solar Investment

TVA in a news release said that since 2018, the Green Invest program “has attracted nearly $2.7 billion in solar investment and procured over 2,100 megawatts of solar on behalf of its customers.”

Breweries and distilleries for several years have been sourcing electricity from renewable energy projects. The UK has a Green Distilleries Competition; the UK’s 2020 budget included an allocation of £10 million ($13.75 million) to fund research and development of ways to help decarbonize UK distilleries, “including the whiskey sector.” The government has said it wants to accelerate commercialization of “innovative cheap, clean, and reliable energy technologies” to help the UK meet its climate commitments.

The Outer Banks Brewing Co. in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, touts itself as the first wind-powered U.S. brewery with onsite generation; the location includes a 92-foot-high wind turbine in the site’s beer garden. New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, was the first U.S. brewery to source all of its power from wind, via wind credits purchased from the city’s utility provider beginning in 1999.

New Belgium installed 200 kW of solar photovoltaics on its packaging hall in 2010, along with some on-site biogas. Two other nearby Colorado breweries—Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, and Left Hand Brewing in Longmont—also have had solar arrays providing power for several years.

Solarplaza International, a group that compiles data on solar-powered breweries, has said there are hundred of such locations worldwide, including at brewing operations for beer giants Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and Heineken.

Solar Projects in Seven States

TVA in addition to its Green Invest program has a renewable energy arm that it said brought $1.4 billion to the region in the past two years. The company in a recent report said it has more than 7,000 MW of existing and contracted renewable energy capacity, including solar generation across 4,271 installations in seven states.

Silicon Ranch worked with local landowners Cumberland Springs Land Co., leadership at Motlow State Community College, and officials in Moore County to develop the Jack Daniel’s solar project.

“The Tennessee Valley is our home, and Silicon Ranch is honored to be part of this compelling story that demonstrates what’s possible when partners work together with a shared commitment to our local communities,” said Reagan Farr, Silicon Ranch co-founder and CEO. “Thanks to the leadership of our friends at TVA, local power companies such as DREMC, and visionary companies such as Jack Daniel’s, Silicon Ranch is on pace to invest more than $1 billion across the Valley, and we are proud to expand this legacy to Moore County.”

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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