By Jack Weatherly
Entergy will build solar facilities in three Mississippi cities.
It is designated a pilot project even though solar technology has been around for decades, because it is the first of “utility scale” in Mississippi, said Aaron Hill, manager of the project for Entergy.
Construction will commence in the Jackson area in the second quarter and be completed next year, Hill said.
It and the two other sites, one at Senatobia and the other at Brookhaven, will enable Entergy to measure the degree of sunshine in the northern, central and southern parts of the state, he said.
Ironically, the Senatobia site will be in the vicinity of the vacant Twin Creeks Technologies building, which was to turn out panels on an industrial scale, though not necessarily for Mississippi.
The central site panels will track the movement of the sun, while the other two will be fixed at a 20-degree south-by-southwest angle, Hill said, adding that all sites are 2.5 to 3 acres.
Haley Fisackerly, president and chief executive of Entergy Mississippi said the rapid decline in the cost of producing solar energy — even without the federal production tax credit afforded to companies that generate electricity from wind, geothermal, and bioenergy from certain crops — persuaded the utility to commit to the project.
“We decided we needed to do a project to see how solar can work in Mississippi. This is big enough for us to do that, but small enough to where it has very little impact on our customers.”
“The way they are designed and built, if they do come out to be beneficial, we can go bigger with them.”
Production by the central Mississippi facility will be registered on the Entergy website, he said.
“We want this to be . . . an educational tool for us, as well as for the Mississippi Public Service Commission.”
The combined output from all three sites will only be enough to power 175 single-family residences.
Clean-air regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency may well “push coal off the table,” and nuclear power “is hard to justify because natural gas is so plentiful, so affordable, so cheap.”
Still, “I start to get kind of nervous when we start to put all our eggs in one basket, so we need to find out if [solar] will work here in Mississippi.
“We’re going to be showcasing a Mississippi product, a panel made by Stion [Corp.]. There are also other components made by a local vendor that we hope will be used in this process.”
There are no mandates for Mississippi utilities to produce electricity from renewable sources, Fisackerly said.
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