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Commercial solar power production facility opens in Picayune

Picayune — Mississippi has its first solar photovoltaic farm. No, this isn’t a farm using solar electricity to run agricultural operations. This is the state’s first commercial enterprise that is using a solar array to “farm” the sun, producing electricity from photovoltaic cells.

Lectrique Solaire, LLC, is the first advanced photovoltaic power (PV) grid for consumer usage in Mississippi and the Southeast, says Sammy Germany, president and operations director for new business for the company.

“The first 30kW is on line working and all data is showing that the stability is working well,” Germany said. “We’re expecting to go ahead and do at least three more projects in Mississippi.”

The pilot project is one that the company plans to replicate across the region within a few years, providing a boost to the quality of electricity in rural and surrounding corporate limit areas.

“This is not your basic PV system that you would put up on your home,” Germany said. “This is a top-of-the-line PV system that not only produces energy, but very high-quality energy that can be used to improve the quality of power on rural grid electrical lines.”

The technology used by the new solar operation is much more efficient than previous solar applications. “The technology has improved by leaps and bounds,” he said.

Grid infrastructures across the U.S. have being deteriorating and this has been documented over the past 25 years with the massive population growth in the rural areas. Part of the problem is the distance from the sources generating power. Germany said by placing the solar energy production facilities in key areas, the grid can be stabilized.

“We’re the kings of grid stability,” Germany said.

If the concept gains acceptance by rural electric companies, Lectrique Solaire plans to employ 75 to 100 workers to construct, install and operate the systems in the Gulf Coast area.

“Here within Mississippi, 53% of the growth population has moved or homesteaded up to seven miles and beyond any major metropolitan city limit area,” Germany said. “This alone has made the power companies push an extreme amount of electrical energy to the edge of each power laterals. Over 77% of the rural grid power laterals within the U.S. were not designed for long-range voltage movement. It is not uncommon throughout the rural U.S. to see voltage sags commonly called ‘brownouts’ or voltage surges also known as ‘voltage swells’ to occur in these new and up coming town subsidiaries and subdivisions. Lights dimming, computer shut-downs, digital equipment from washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves and more are in danger of damage from the extension of rural industry voltage demands and grid electrical power movements.”

Anticipating expansion

Currently online is the first 30kW worth of power generation. Gradually, the company will be adding more panels until it reaches at least 100kW, which will produce enough energy for 80 to 90 rural homes in central Pearl River County.

Germany recalls that at first the local power companies that are cooperating by purchasing power from the project were skeptical. They really didn’t believe the project was feasible, and you can’t blame them. It is a prototype for the Southeast. But Coast Electric Power Company and South Mississippi Electric Power Association came on board, and agreed to participate in the pilot program.

The technology uses a new type of di-electric material that continues to collect energy even in low-light conditions or when part of the panel is shaded. The slant of the panels can be 12 degrees instead 30 degrees, which provides more stability, making the panels less vulnerable to storm damage. Germany said the panels are very sturdy, and suffered no damage when winds reached nearly 50 miles per hour in recent Hurricane Ivan.

Clean and stable source

Germany said the success of the project near Picayune has proven that PV grid power will stabilize, produce and create a cleaner environment.

“This corporation is pursuing more work contracting within Mississippi and two other southeastern states to be the largest grid photovoltaic power producer in the Southeast,” Germany said. “This power produced will be stationed in or around large rural areas with grid systems in the range 500kW to one megawatt or even larger being built.”

The Pearl River Photovoltaic Power Stability System is called Palms Generating Station Number One or P2S.

“This PV System gives clean pure and environmentally grid stable power for all residential and commercial application in the surrounding areas of Pearl River County,” Germany said. “The larger the power system is, the more stable the grid power will be and the fewer consumers will need to worry about their power destroying the expensive equipment purchased.”

The online grid photovoltaic system, which has been built over the past nine months, consists of eight major paneled arrays. Each paneled array is 10 feet tall or wide, and stretches 65 feet long. All power cables run to the center of each array and terminate on an equipment pad holding the digital power conversion equipment. The power equipment takes the direct current electrical energy produced by the panels and coverts the power into three phases with a very clean signal then discharges a very stable 208 voltage of alternating current.

In the equipment alignment following the 208DC/AC inverter is the 208/480 delta step-up transformer. This transformer moves the metered clean electrical energy to the power grid.

Germany said hundreds if not thousands of new jobs are possible by promoting alternative solar energy production in Mississippi. But it is important that the State of Mississippi get on board to support rebates and incentives to bring alternative energy jobs to Mississippi. He said Mississippi won’t be able to compete with other states like Texas, Louisiana and Florida that have incentives unless there is a similar program in Mississippi.

Germany said the Southeast is playing catch-up in high technology of alternative energy compared to what has been done in other regions.

“States on the East and West coasts have established more than 4,500 new jobs in alternative energy fields,” Germany said. “The alternative energy incentive programs need to move forward in the State Legislature quickly for Mississippi to be able to take advantage of the opportunities represented by this new technology.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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