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An aerial shot of the GM plant in context to the surrounding area in Spring Hill, Tenn., Thursday, May 28, 2009. (JAE S. LEE / THE TENNESSEAN)

General Motors plans to power its Tennessee manufacturing plant entirely from the sun by late 2022 under an an agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to acquire solar power from one of TVA's first utility-owned solar farms.

GM's vehicle assembly plant in Spring Hill will get 100 megawatts of solar power from the 200-megawatts plant TVA contracted with Origis Energy earlier this year to build near Columbus, Mississippi.

GM is buying the renewable power through TVA's Green Invest program, which allows electric customers to use only renewable generation for their electricity supply from TVA at the cost of such generation. As solar generation has gotten cheaper and public support for renewable energy has increased, more companies like GM are opting to buy renewable energy to meet corporate environmental performance goals.

The Spring Hill plant agreement with TVA is expected to help boost GM's use of renewable energy to more than 50% of its sourced electricity by 2023, moving GM closer to its goal of getting all of its electricity from renewables in the United States by 2030 at GM-owned sites.

"Our commitment to renewable energy is part of our vision of a world with zero emissions," said Dane Parker, GM chief sustainability officer. "We're committed to using our scale and relationships to increase renewable energy demand and availability."

Spring Hill Manufacturing is the largest GM site in North America, totaling 2,100 acres, and currently builds the GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT5 and XT6. Seven hundred acres of GM's Spring Hill facility are dedicated to farming, with an additional 100 acres dedicated to wildlife habitat, composing of wetlands and native grasses.

"We're excited that GM chose Green Invest because TVA's ability to meet the renewable energy needs of our customers will drive vital investment and jobs across our seven-state region," TVA President Jeff Lyash said in an annoucement of the agreement. "Moving forward, large-scale solar installations provide the best value for our customers to help meet their sustainability goals which makes Green Invest a win for everyone."

GM is the third major Green Invest project announced with TVA so far this year. In January, Vanderbilt University announced an agreement with TVA and Nashville Electric Service to get power from a new 35 megawatt solar farm planned in Bedford County to help meet Vanderbilt's goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. In March, the Knoxville Utilities Board announced plans to build its own 212-megawatt solar farm under TVA's Green Invest program to help meet the renewable goals of private companies wanting to buy only renewable power.

TVA's Green Invest program is modeled on similar agreements made in 2018 with Facebook and Google, which are buying power from the biggest new solar farms built so far in Alabama and Tennessee.

The project with Origis marked the first time TVA has contracted to provide renewable energy to more than a single customer and its first entry into renewable energy storage.

"We are moving to contract large volumes of solar for our customers, whether it's for large business customers or smaller businesses or residential customers who use our Renewable Energy Certificate to help offset their carbon footprint," TVA vice president Doug Perry said.

TVA is boosting its solar energy capacity this year by 44% by adding 484 megawatts of new contracted solar generation, including the $200 million solar farm in Mississippi that will both generate and store electric power.

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