Mississippi breaks ground on its largest solar plant at 52 MW

Solar is coming to the U.S. Deep South in a big way. After Southern Company changed its tune under regulatory pressure in Georgia several years back and accepted the benefits of large-scale solar in its service area, the company’s utility subsidiaries have contracted to buy power from a string of PV projects.

This first took place in Georgia, but over the last year it has spread to Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. As the latest development, today Southern subsidiary Mississippi Power and developer Origis Energy held a ceremony for the groundbreaking of a 52 MW solar PV project in Lamar County, near Hattiesburg in the southern part of the state.

The plant will comprise 215,000 multicrystalline PV modules covering an area of 2.4 square kilometers. Origis energy intends to complete the project in the first quarter of 2017 and will sell the electricity generated to Mississippi Power under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

This PPA was approved by state regulators last November, as part of 105 MW of solar PPAs between Mississippi Power and developers. This included a PPA for a 50 MW PV project in Hattiesburg, which developer Silicon Ranch began work on in late April.

Mississippi Power will buy the electricity and associated renewable energy credits (RECs) produced by the project, and notes that it has the option to use the RECs “to serve customers with solar energy or sell to third parties for the benefit of customers”.

Mississippi Power notes that the Lamar County project will help to diversify its portfolio and also notes that the electricity generated by the plant “will not be subject to price variation seen with other fuel sources”.

The Deep South has some of the lowest electricity prices in the nation, however the use of air conditioning during hot summers creates spikes in demand which are typically met with more expensive “peaker” gas plants or imported power.