Silicon Ranch Corp., a Nashville-based solar energy company founded by former Governor Phil Bredesen, attracted a major investment from global oil and gas corporation Shell, now its largest shareholder.
The deal, which could total $217 million, will provide a solar energy platform in the U.S. to Netherlands-based Shell while allowing Silicon Ranch to enter new markets and expand offerings. Silicon Ranch is developing, owns or operates 100 solar energy facilities in 14 states across the U.S.
Shell, which generated more than $233 billion in revenue in 2016, will buy a nearly 44 percent interest in Silicon Ranch from Switzerland-based investment manager Partners Group. The purchase amount will be based on Silicon Ranch’s performance, and Shell has the ability to increase its position after 2021.
Silicon Ranch will continue to be led by CEO Matt Kisber and Chief Financial Officer Reagan Farr. Both men founded the company in 2010 with Bredesen, after serving as commissioners in his administration.
Bredesen serves as Silicon Ranch chairman and is now pursuing a U.S. Senate seat. If he is elected, he intends to step down as chairman to focus on senate duties, Kisber said.
For many utilities and companies, solar offers the lowest cost option for long-term energy because solar construction costs have dropped significantly, Kisber said. He expects demand for solar energy to increase as technology further improves, costs continue to decrease and as more consumers prioritize renewable energy.
In 2016, Shell prioritized new energy technology and established a solar energy office in San Francisco, Kisber said. That same year, Silicon Ranch raised two rounds of capital and was not looking for new partners. But, as Shell sought to acquire an existing solar platform, Silicon Ranch recognized the growth opportunities the partnership offered, Kisber said.
Silicon Ranch employs about 30 people in Nashville, San Francisco and Denver. That a Nashville company garnered a major investment from a global corporation for new energy technology is a notable achievement for the local business community, said Mayor Megan Barry.
“Nashville is home to a diverse group of industry-leading, cutting edge businesses, and today’s announcement represents another proud moment for our city’s corporate
community," Barry said. "It is a testament to the success of our very own Silicon Ranch that Shell—one of the world’s energy leaders—has selected it as a strategic partner for building a successful global solar business.”