The Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) approved another solar facility at its meeting on April 9 as the state’s utilities continue to invest heavily in renewables.
The three-member elected commission that regulates utilities unanimously voted to issue a certificate of convenience and necessity for Mississippi Power to construct and operate a solar generation and battery storage facility in Leake County.
The 1.286 megawatt facility will have a 5.14 megawatt per hour battery storage system and is intended to be a demonstration and research project while providing generation capacity for the company’s 23-county service area.
Utilities that are seeking to add generation capacity via a new power plant or other generation facility are required to seek the approval of the commission since the capital costs are passed on to ratepayers.
After a slow start in 2017, the growth of solar power in Mississippi has been exponential.“It has been refreshing to see the level of utility-scale project proposals,” said Brent Bailey, the Central District PSC Commissioner. He says that two of the reasons why solar is booming in Mississippi is due to the state’s inexpensive land resources and location.
Mississippi is served by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), MISO (through Entergy) and Southern Company (Mississippi Power) and having them all in one state Bailey says is another reason why solar is taking off in popularity.
There are 15 projects with investments of more than $823 million that have already been approved by the commission, with two under construction and two in the negotiation phase with landowners.
Entergy received approval in April 2020 from the commission for a 100 megawatt solar farm on 1,000 acres in the Mississippi Delta’s Sunflower County that is scheduled to go online by 2022.
Mississippi Power has three solar facilities with a total of 150 megawatts of capacity, with one located in Hattiesburg, another in Sumrall and the last in Lauderdale County near Meridian.
Silicon Ranch has seven facilities in the state providing generation capacity to Mississippi Power and the TVA. This company also has solar generation facilities in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, including one located at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga
There are three more projects, worth an investment of $420 million, that await approval by the PSC.
Origis Energy has the two biggest projects, both planned for Lowndes County and representing a combined $350 million investment. One project, MS Solar 5, will be a 200 megawatt facility with a 50 megawatt battery storage unit, while the other one, yet to be named, will have a capacity of 150 megawatts and a 50 megawatt battery storage facility.
Both have 20 year off-load agreements with TVA, with MS Solar 5’s generation capacity going to support General Motors and Knoxville Utilities while the unnamed project’s capacity will support two Facebook data centers. MS Solar 5, pending approval, will be operational by October 2022 and the unnamed project is scheduled to be operational by the last quarter of 2023.
Miami, Florida-based Origis has become a major player in the solar market, with projects in seven countries, including Belgium (58 projects), Italy (34), Greece (31) and 24 in the United States, along with single projects in Brazil, Chile and Slovakia. Florida has the most projects in the Origis portfolio with six, with Mississippi second with four.
Madison County is scheduled for a solar project, as Acadian LLC and MAP Energy are planning an $80 million solar facility that will generate about 80 megawatts of power. An off-taker has yet to be revealed and the facility is supposed to be operational by the last quarter of 2022.
Another 100 megawatt facility is planned Walls in DeSoto County for the fourth quarter of 2022.
Lastly, the Pearl River Solar Park is planned for 2023. The 175 megawatt solar facility will require an initial investment of $235 million and it will be owned by EDP Renewables North America, an energy firm based in Houston.
The facility will be built on 1,760 acres in northwest Scott County just over the line from Rankin County.