By JACK WEATHERLY
Mississippi ranked ninth in the country in solar power growth in the second quarter by adding 92.9 megawatts, thanks largely to projects brought online by utilities.
The U.S. industry installed 2,387 megawatts of solar facilities for the quarter, a record increase of 8 percent over the year-earlier quarter, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“This report shows once again that solar is on the rise and will continue to add to its share of electricity generation,” SEIA President and Chief Executive said in a release.
Only 1.26 megawatts (a megawatt is 1 million watts) were added in the residential and nonresidential segments in Mississippi.
The industry added 883 jobs in the state last year, according to SEIA.
Across the U.S. $23 billion was invested in solar projects in 2016 and 260,000 jobs were created, the association reported in conjunction with GTM Research.
Mississippi ranks 32nd nationally in total solar output. California, for example, has 19,665 MW installed, ranking first in the nation.
And although the Magnolia State is lagging behind most most of the country, the solar industry itself still provides only a small part of the overall electricity generation.
The Energy Information Administration reports that solar energy is only 0.9 percent of the mix produced by utility-scale facilities. Other renewable sources – hydropower, 6.5 percent; wind, 5.6 percent; biomass, 1.5 percent, geothermal, 0.4 percent – combine with solar to provide 14.9 percent of the total.
Natural gas accounted for 33.8 percent, followed by coal, 30.4 percent, and nuclear, 19.7 percent.
However, renewables continue to grow. In 2011 renewables accounted for 9 percent of the mix, including solar at 2 percent, according to EIA.
Entergy Mississippi brought three solar projects online in 2016.
The projects, built by Hattiesburg-based Stion, are located in Brookhaven and Hinds and DeSoto counties. Collectively, they provide enough energy to power 178 homes.
Mississippi Power Co. and Silicon Ranch launched earlier this month a facility located on 450 acres off U.S. 49 South near Hattiesburg that will generate enough electricity annually to power 6,500 houses.
The utility dedicated a 3-4MW project at the Seabee Base in conjunction with Hannah Solar and the U.S. Navy, which are partnering on a 15-acre site.
Mississippi Power is partnering with D.E. Shaw on a 52-MW A 52-MW project at Sumrall which opened July 7 on a 595-acre site.
The Mississippi Public Service Commission unanimously approved a 52.5 MW solar facility in Lauderdale County that will be another partnership between Mississippi Power and Silicon Ranch.
Cooperative Entergy, the second-largest electricity provider in the state, has built and operates five small-scale solar sites, each installation with 100 kilowatts or less.