Tennessee solar project financed based on its carbon reduction impact by Clearloop

Nashville-based Clearloop is partnering with electric vehicle company Rivian to brings its first megawatt of renewable electricity online with a different financial focus in mind: to bring solar energy to a fossil-fuel-heavy part of the country where new renewable development can have a much greater impact in terms of carbon reductions.

“Corporations have played a major role in growing renewables, but we’re arriving at a point where we need to evolve our approaches in order to truly decarbonize the nation’s entire grid,” said Laura Zapata, Clearloop co-founder and CEO. “Clearloop is opening up a new solar financing mechanism that focuses on the carbon impacts rather than the megawatt hours. Rivian’s willingness to think creatively and take this different path is a key enabler.”

Power purchase agreements – long-term contracts for a certain amount of renewable power and the associated environmental attributes at a set price – have driven the lion’s share of new corporate renewable projects. PPAs are effective, but they are primarily concentrated in states with liquid wholesale electricity markets or retail choice. That has led to an uneven distribution of solar and wind in regions across the country, and thus an uneven distribution of CO2.

The Southeast and Mountain West regions for example rely on comparatively fewer renewables and more fossil fuels. Tennessee’s grid is powered by 0.4% solar, while electricity in California is produced by nearly 16% solar. As a result, a MWh of electricity in Tennessee emits around 32% more carbon than a megawatt hour in Northern California, according to WattTime, a non-profit that tracks the carbon emissions that renewables avoid.

The Paris Solar Farm – Puryear in Tennessee will be the first installation in Henry County, which is located on the Sun Belt roughly 100 miles east of Nashville. The project utilizes unique approaches to financing and siting that aim to put renewables on more fossil-fueled grids where they can displace more coal and natural gas.

Rivian provided upfront financing for 1-MW of the 6.75-MW project, which will cover electricity used by Rivian Waypoints chargers planned for Tennessee state parks as well as other clean energy commitments in the region. Rivian’s capital helped to kickstart construction of the overall project and demonstrates corporate demand for renewable power in the region, Clearloop leaders say.

“The carbon consequences go beyond state lines,” said Andrew Peterman, director of renewable energy at Rivian. “Given the urgency with which we need to transition to more sustainable energy systems, the system-wide impacts matter. That’s why we’re being thoughtful from the very first steps on our path to carbon neutrality.”

Rivian aspires to achieve carbon neutrality in its own operations – Scopes 1 and 2 as defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol – by 2028, and in categories within Scope 3 by 2032. Scope 3 encompasses the full value chain from suppliers to vehicle charging. The company is building charging networks across the US and Canada and plans to match every kilowatt hour Rivian owners drive with renewable energy purchases on an annual basis – whether vehicles are charged at home, a Rivian charging network charger or at a partner network charging site.

In addition to the partnership between Rivian and Clearloop, the Paris Solar Farm – Puryear is also enabled by a recent Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) provision that allows local electricity providers within its jurisdiction to source 5% of their power from renewables developed by entities other than TVA. Local power company Paris BPU, which serves Henry County, is among the first to use the provision. The solar farm allows the utility to offer its first green tariff, which allows local companies to purchase the environmental attributes the new solar provides, and helps meet their own renewable energy targets cost effectively in their own backyards.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest from local businesses, and we’re pleased we can help them meet their targets while also generating revenue that helps keep our rates stable for our customers,” said Terry Wimberley, Paris BPU president and CEO. “As part of Silicon Ranch, Clearloop’s partnership with Rivian showed us how as a rural power company we can use renewable energy certificates as an economic development tool for our community.”

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