Solar gains traction

The Delta will be getting its second large-scale solar panel electricity power plant, according to Entergy, one of the state’s largest regulated power companies. Entergy provides electricity to 449,000 customers in 45 counties. The 1,000-acre site will be in Sunflower County and will produce 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 16,000 homes. The cost will be $138 million and will have 350,000 solar modules. Canadian Solar will build the facility and then sell it to Entergy once completed, if the Mississippi Public Service Commission approves. Entergy’s investment came after positive results of three smaller solar pilot projects.

Just months earlier Hattiesburg-based Cooperative Energy, a group of independent rural electricity cooperatives throughout Mississippi, announced a 652-acre, 100 megawatt solar facility in Carroll County near Greenwood. Cooperative Energy has 427,000 customers in 55 counties. The 363,000 panel facility will be financed and built by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) of England, which will lease the electricity to Cooperative in a long-term contract. RES is one of the biggest installers of solar power plants in the world.

These solar projects come just as numerous studies are showing that wind and solar will be the lowest cost electricity generation technologies within the next two years. In the last year, twice as much wind and solar wattage came online worldwide compared to fossil fuel. At this pace, wind and energy could replace fossil fuels as the dominant energy source in 15 years.

Compared to the ill-fated 500-megawatt Kemper lignite power plant, the solar facilities are a bargain. Kemper cost $7.5 billion when shut down due to cost overruns. That’s $15 million per megawatt. In comparison, the new solar facilities will be $1.4 million per megawatt – about one-tenth the per-megawatt cost of Kemper.

Of course, solar only works when the sun shines so baseload generation will be necessary for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, fracking has doubled the estimated U. S. natural gas reserves. The future of low-carbon energy looks bright.


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