Entergy talks proposed $138M Sunflower County solar farm

By BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,

Entergy’s footprint in Sunflower County is about to get a lot bigger.

The utility, which services much of the Delta, announced last week that it is partnering with Recurrent Energy on a $138 million solar panel farm that will be located on a 1,000-acre site in the northern part of the county near Ruleville.

The facility will connect to Entergy’s transmission grid in Ruleville and will include around 350,000 solar panels.

While the project will produce a small number of full time positions, the initial construction phase could employ up to 360 contract employees, Entergy Mississippi President and CEO Haley Fisackerly told The E-T this week.

Fisackerly said the project, which is expected to be completed no later than 2022, stems from a pilot program that began with three smaller solar power farms in 2014.

“What we learned from that was the genesis for helping us get to where we are with this project today,” Fisackerly said. “This is a unique transaction, probably one of the first of its kind. It’s also kind of new for us in the sense of adding a generation source.”

Currently, Entergy provides customers with power through a mix of sources, including nuclear, natural gas and coal.

This project will allow Entergy to diversify into renewable energy and help power as many as 16,000 homes.

Fisackerly said that Entergy put out a request for proposal for companies who specialize in building solar facilities.

The list was narrowed to just a few companies, and Recurrent, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar, won the bid.

“Solar has been around for quite some time now, and there are entities in the world today who build nothing but solar,” Fisackerly said. “They negotiate the land deals, they build them and put them into operation.”

Darron Case, who is overseeing this project for Entergy, said Recurrent actually had the Ruleville site pre-selected and had options of some of the property.

“It’s perfect for solar,” Case said of the site and the Delta region in general. “Recurrent was the selected bidder for that process, and that was the site that they had already kind of pre-selected and had options on some of the land. That’s how it came about for that area. It turned out to be a really great site for us.”

Fisackerly, whose father grew up in Ruleville, said he is excited this project is coming to the Delta, Sunflower County in particular.

“I’m excited it came out that way,” Fisackerly said. “Knowing my dad grew up in Ruleville, right there, is kind of neat. The delta is such a rich part of Entergy’s history, so I’m excited that something has come around that is allowing us to make a large capital investment in the heart of the Delta.”

When it comes online, Fisackerly said the solar facility will allow Entergy to bring more reliability to customers during peak hours and hopefully avoid common and large investments like backup generators or transmission lines.

They are also building the panels with the intent of adding battery storage to the mix in the future.

“We will design this plant so that in the future, it will be a recipient of batteries,” Fisackerly said. “We’ll be able to add battery in the future and store that sunlight energy and dispatch it later in the day when demand is higher.”