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Ted Turner, utility CEO set sights on the sun

When it comes to their positions on energy and the environment, Ted Turner and Southern Co. Chief Executive David Ratcliffe seem as compatible as Felix and Oscar of “Odd Couple” fame.

The latter shared an apartment, though; the media mogul and the utility executive are going into the solar energy business together.

On Tuesday Turner and Ratcliffe announced an alliance to pursue renewable energy products with an initial focus on “developing and investing in large scale solar photovoltaic projects in the U.S. Southwest.”

Some of the projects under consideration are on property owned by Turner, the largest individual landowner in North America, with more than 2 million acres. Southern will own 90 percent and Turner 10 percent of the alliance, which will build an unspecified number of solar farms to generate electricity.

The deal grew out of a relationship between Turner and Ratcliffe in which the two publicly stated divergent views.

“The chairman of the Southern Co. does a great job representing the fossil fuel industry and coal,” Turner once said, adding he wasn’t fond of Southern’s reliance on coal and nuclear energy. “Coal, we know, is going to kill us. Nuclear just might. I would rather see us put more of our emphasis on wind and solar.”

Ratcliffe said solar and wind aren’t practical in the Southeast and he is responsible for generating enough electricity to meet demand. However, he called Turner “a sincere person who has done a lot of research. He’s put his money where his heart is and where his mouth is. He’s a smart guy. I like to engage him.”

Such engagement established the basis of the partnership.

“This alliance unites our common goal to explore and develop new renewable energy projects,” Ratcliffe said.