Ted Turner, perhaps looking to prove he can do it better than Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, is taking his piece of the renewable energy pie. And he is working with Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), which currently has 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, to make it happen.
"I've always been passionate about developing renewable energy, and I'm excited to join forces with Southern Company to explore our renewable energy potential," said Ted Turner, owner of Turner Renewable Energy and the largest individual land owner in North America. "Southern Company's experience in power project development, construction and operations, and customer relations help make this a strong alliance, and I look forward to working together."
The initial focus of their strategic alliance, which was announced on January 28th, will be on developing large scale solar photovoltaic projects in the American Southwest where solar resources are very available and efficient. While the announcement was short on details, they have indicated that they will be exploring the feasibility of locating some of those projects on Turner's more than 2 million acres of land.
Down the road, they may also look at other renewable energy options and technologies.
"We have said for some time that renewable energy should play an increasing role in this country's energy mix and that Southern Company would seek opportunities to expand our renewable portfolio where it makes sense,” said Southern CEO David Ratcliffe.
Unlike T. Boone, Turner has been an active environmentalist and a serious philanthropist willing to put his money where his mouth is for some time. He has turned much of his land into conservation area, as well as used it to re-establish American bison and prairie dog populations.
In December of 2008, Turner told Grist, “I want to see humanity succeed, and learn to live in peace and harmony with the environment and each other.”
Turner, who started the cable news channel CNN is also a savvy businessman. So while Southern Company, with its holdings in nuclear energy, hydroelectric and promotion of carbon capture for coal plants may not be the darling of the environmental community, the company did have earnings of $1.65 billion in 2009.
While Turner may be coming at investing in energy primarily from an environmental perspective, Southern Company is certainly looking at it from a business perspective; they will invest where there is money to be made. That the two objectives intersect around renewable energy is the real story.
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