BLAKLEY, Ga. — A solar farm that Walton Electric Membership Corp. depends on to provide electricity to Facebook’s Newton Data Center is now a farm in every sense of the word.

When Facebook decided to build its Newton Data Center, the social media giant chose Walton EMC as the power supplier. One of the deciding factors in picking the co-op is that it could meet Facebook’s desire for 100% renewable energy to power the facility.

Walton EMC then partnered with Silicon Ranch, one of the largest independent solar power producers in the country, to build and deliver some of that renewable energy. Their resulting 1,200-acre solar farm is located in Early County, which is primarily an agricultural community.

It turns out those 1,200 acres are producing more than solar electricity.

Once solar panels are installed on a tract of land, the land underneath typically goes idle. It’s usually mowed, but any agricultural production or cultivation ceases.

Silicon Ranch has changed that. Its Early County site is the first new build to incorporate the company’s holistic Regenerative Energy platform.

To deliver Regenerative Energy, Silicon Ranch partners with renowned regenerative ranchers and farmers who deploy holistic farming practices on the solar farm. The solar farm then provides forage for grazing animals, pollinator habitat (for honeybees and the like) and wildlife environment.

The grazing animals, like cattle and sheep, return their wastes to the soil, building valuable organic matter. The farmers that partner with Silicon Ranch also plant cover crops and refrain from tilling the soil.

By controlling the timing, intensity and frequency of grazing to mimic the natural relationship between native grasslands and large herds of grazing animals, the Regenerative Energy process improves soil health and increases the cycling of nutrients, carbon, water and energy.

In contrast, traditional farming methods, like using synthetic fertilizer and heavy tillage, deplete the soil’s organic matter.

Besides enabling the production of a marketable agricultural commodity on the solar farm, Regenerative Energy provides many other benefits, including:

  • Improved soil
  • Improved air and water quality
  • Increased diversity in animal and plant life
  • Trapping carbon in the soil
  • Job creation
  • Stronger rural economies

The program is verified by independent, trusted third-party entities and certified.

“We’re proud to partner with such a forward-thinking company,” Walton EMC CEO Ronnie Lee said.

“Silicon Ranch, through their Regenerative Energy program, is extracting the maximum environmental benefits from their solar development. They’re delivering much more than renewable energy.”

“We at Silicon Ranch are excited to pioneer this holistic program that generates clean energy, healthy soil and food, and jobs for farmers in Georgia, Reagan Farr, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch Corp., said.

“As the long-term owner and operator of every project in our portfolio, we are committed to continuously exploring new opportunities to be better stewards of our land and better citizens in the communities we serve.”