With today's increasing desire to promote alternative energy sources, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is in search of proposals for placement of solar farms in the company's service area which includes Logan County.

TVA serves about 80,000 square miles in the southeastern United States. This area includes most of Tennessee and parts of six other states- Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia.

A solar farm is a large-scale installation that uses sunlight to produce electric power. This power can then be tied into the grid and sold to TVA. Solar farms are usually located in flat areas, as building on level ground eliminates efficiency-reducing shadows.

According to solar industry research data, over 242,000 Americans work in solar -- more than double the number in 2012 -- at more than 10,000 companies in every U.S. state. In 2018, the solar industry generated a $17 billion investment in the American economy.

One of the two companies looking at Logan land to place a solar farm came to Tuesday's fiscal court meeting asking magistrates to create an ordinance that would help their proposal.

Chris Killenberg of Community Energy Solar, says his company will be submitting a proposal to TVA soon, however, one of the barriers needing to be moved is the state's setback statute that required the project to be 1,000 feet from existing structures. Killenberg told the court if the county passed its own ordinance, the state would defer back to it instead.

Killenberg said his company can be described as the developer in the project, the frontman.

According to county attorney Joe Ross, the statute in question was created more for coal mining operations that had accompanying smoke stacks posing a nuisance. Solar farms were added to that statute later on and do not pose those problems.

Although no decisions were made Tuesday, members of the court did discuss a setback of 250 feet for residential (existing homes, cemeteries, schools and churches), a 100 feet from the right-of-way on a road, and 100 feet from a property line.

"I think a 1,000 feet is too much," said magistrate Tyler Davenport with the rest of the court agreeing.

Killenberg says he has already spoken with a few property owners about acreage in the Watermelon-J. Montgomery Roads area to be leased for 30 years if TVA selected its project. Another parcel of property is being considered by this company in the Schochoh area.

The farm would require posts to be set, solar panels attached and a chain link fence to be placed around the perimeter. A substation would also be in the plans.

The project, if awarded, would bring in approximately 250 short-term jobs for construction as well as additional tax revenue to the county. Unfortunately, long-term employment will not be near as much, as it only takes a minimal crew to maintain the farm.

Attorney Ross suggested the judge-executive and magistrates go out to the possible site and look at the land in question first before making a decision.

Killenberg asked if the court could decide on an ordinance by August to assure the proposal could be submitted promptly. He anticipates TVA to announce who will be awarded the contract in October.