Flamboyant billionaire Ted Turner has joined forces with Southern Company, an Atlanta-based utility with 42 gigawatts of capacity, to seek out alternative energy projects.
The two will initially focus on large-scale solar projects in the southwest, currently one of the hotbeds of solar development in the country. Both California and Arizona have created lucrative incentives to build solar farms.Interestingly, Southern serves customers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida right now, so getting into solar will make them a national electricity provider. That's similar to the path already chosen by Duke Energy Services, which has wind farms across the country and just bought rights to build a solar farm in Texas, and Florida Power and Light, which owns solar thermal farms in California.
Turner, by the way, is the largest individual landholder in the U.S., owning more than two million acres. Some of the projects could end up on his land.
Back in late 2007, Turner sold Turner Renewable Energy, a solar developer, to First Solar for $34.4 million. The acquisition at the time was one of First Solar's first steps to get into project development and to diversify from strictly functioning as a manufacturer. Subsequently, First Solar scooped up contracts from now defunct Optisolar to build 1.8 gigawatts worth of solar farms in California and Canada as well as the rights to plant up to 19 gigawatts of solar on 136,000 acres of land. It has also inked alliances to build solar farms in China.