The recent announcement of a 652-acre, 100-megawatt solar farm six miles east of Greenwood is good news in many ways. The facility, which can provide enough power for 20,000 homes, will create 350 jobs during construction. The project will provide affordable electricity to Mississippi’s Cooperative Energy, a group of a dozen rural electric power associations located throughout the state serving 427,000 homes in 55 Mississippi counties. It will provide much needed property tax income for rural Carroll County. It is one more sign that environmentally friendly solar systems have become competitive with fossil fuels and are an economic reality.
The facility, which should be completed by 2022, will be the biggest solar project in the state. It is being built by British company Renewable Energy Systems, which has built more than 12 gigawatts in renewable energy systems around the world.
Last year more than 125 gigawatts of wind and solar energy capacity was installed worldwide, twice as much as new fossil fuel plants. If that pace continues, wind and solar energy could replace all fossil fuels, including transportation, in 25 years. In reality, wind and solar systems are still rapidly becoming cheaper and more efficient, meaning the pace of installations will probably become much more rapid in future years, shortening that timeline dramatically. For those worried about global warming, the solution is happening now. Of course, fossil fuels will still have a role as a baseload provider, but new storage systems could even alter that scenario.
The Greenwood solar facility also shows we have plenty of land in Mississippi for solar panels. If 652 acres can provide power for 20,000 homes, that’s one-third of an acre per home. That means 33,000 acres could power all the homes in Mississippi. That’s less than 1 percent of the total land area in Mississippi.
After the disastrous Kemper power plant failure, it’s good to see a power company moving in the right direction for a change.