Ted Turner Officially Turns On New Mexico Solar Plant

Richard Branson & Ted Turner at World Climate Summit

CNN   founder, and “Mouth of the South,” Ted Turner has officially turned on his jointly-owned, 30-MW, solar farm in New Mexico. While Turner said last month at the World Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico, that the plant was in the process of being turned on, in a release from Turner and co-owner, power company Southern Company, Monday morning, the duo say the so-called Cimarron Solar Facility “has begun commercial operation.”

The $100 million solar facility is next to Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico, and took about a year to build. Southern Company owns 90 percent of the farm, while Turner owns 10 percent, and the facility will supply power to the electricity co-op, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The project will use panels from First Solar, and First Solar will build the project.

Turner said in Cancun about turning on the facility: “We’re pretty excited about it.” He explained his partnership with power company Southern Company: “I’ve experimented with getting on the inside and working with them rather than opposing them on things.” Southern Company is one of the larger users of coal in the U.S., while Turner is a long-time environmentalist.

But Turner, of course, is a businessman interested in making money from his clean power investments. If you remember a couple of years ago, Turner sold his solar developer company, Turner Renewable Energy, to First Solar for $34.3 million, in a combination of First Solar common stock and cash. The deal was a surprising early exit for the investor in the solar space back in 2007. The Cinmarron project is the first deal to come out of a partnership between Turner Renewable Energy and Southern Company.

During Turner’s onstage interview in Cancun, Turner said he loved the solar panels he installed on his farm 25 years ago to electrify the fences so the bison wouldn’t get out, and he likes to go out and rub them (seriously, he said that). He also made the comparison between building solar plants and building coal plants: “Nobody’s been killed doing it, which is an important thing if you are a miner. No one went underground; it’s all on the surface of the desert.” Turner is the largest private land owner in the U.S., and will be able to use his land as a place for solar farms.

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