A partnership between Southern Company (NYSE: SO) and Ted Turner has led to one of the nation's largest solar plants, serving 9,000 homes.

Developed and constructed by First Solar Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR), the 30-megawatt Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico is now producing electricity, the companies involved announced in a release today.

"This is a key milestone for Southern Company as we steadily incorporate more renewables into our energy portfolio," said Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Tom Fanning. "Renewables, along with new nuclear, increased energy efficiency, 21st century coal technology and additional natural gas, all will be crucial to meeting this nation's growing energy demand."

The 364-acre plant site is located within the service territory of Tri-State member system Springer Electric Cooperative in Colfax County, N.M., and is adjacent to Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch.

Southern Company and Turner Renewable Energy acquired the project from First Solar in March 2010. Turner Renewable Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of Turner Enterprises with a focus on development of commercial-scale solar projects.

"We are very excited to see this project completed and producing clean solar energy to power homes and businesses in New Mexico," said Turner. "Large-scale solar generation is among the fastest-growing energy sources in the world, and we're pleased that we can be a part of that growth."

Initially expected to go on line by the end of 2010, the facility was completed in eight months and began commercial operation in early December, nearly a month ahead of schedule.

Electricity generated by the plant will serve a 25-year power purchase agreement with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives serving 1.5 million consumers across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. The project further expands Tri-State's focus on providing renewable generation for its members, as the association also announced late last year that its Kit Carson Windpower Project began commercial operation in eastern Colorado.