Mississippi will see the largest solar energy farm in the state’s history constructed near Clay and Lowndes County, a 200-megawatt farm intended to supply renewable energy to cities across the southeast, including Starkville and Knoxville, Tenn.
Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley inked his approval of the deal earlier this week, announcing the plans on social media.
“The @OrigisEnergy project in Lowndes Co. will have 650K solar panels across 3,900 acres and produce enough electricity to power 42K homes,” Presley wrote. “This $200M private investment will also include 50MW in battery storage.”
Solar energy generation is growing in the Golden Triangle region—including Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha County. The newly approved solar farm joins a pair of sites in the region that will generate 350 megawatts total.
On May 7, the Mississippi Free Press spoke with Scott Fiedler, a spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority, about the incoming solar projects.
“It’s huge,” Fiedler said. “The Golden Triangle is one of the epicenters for solar in Mississippi. It’s a leader in the Valley. It’s a convergence of solar technology with industry coming and cities like Starkville who want to partner with TVA to lower carbon emissions, and use solar to attract jobs and investment into their region.”
The new Origis energy projects are public-private partnerships, an example of TVA’s Green Invest program. Corporations and public utilities like those in Starkville and Knoxville invest in the construction of solar farms across the TVA’s 7-state area. Those investments provide renewable energy credits, or RECs, proof that the investing party is dedicated to supplying a percentage of their energy footprint through carbon-neutral technologies.
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RECs do not guarantee that the energy used by the investing party is directly provided by carbon-neutral sources. Once the solar farms transmit the energy to the network, it joins the rest of the power supply, including from coal, oil and other carbon-generating sources. Rather, RECs let energy consumers across disparate regions and industries point to green projects like solar farms that they have funded, matching their usage to a degree of carbon-free energy production.
Fiedler explained that Starkville’s partnership with the TVA will allow the city to claim 15% of its energy load from solar alone.
“Solar projects help them achieve their sustainability goals,” he said. “(But) we can also use solar to attract jobs and investments into these communities.”
The partnership, including a Florida-based energy company in Origis, the City of Knoxville in Tennessee, and the Golden Triangle region of Mississippi is a geographically dispersed collection of stakeholders. Fiedler highlights this as a positive of TVA’s regional outlook.
“Communities are no longer competing for these jobs or this investment. They can work together as a whole—a seven state region—to attract and retain business.”
TVA is seeking a long-term reduction in carbon usage. Fiedler explained that the goal is zero-carbon by 2050. But solar remains a relatively minute part of that strategy, only about 3% overall. The majority of TVA’s carbon-free energy production comes from nuclear plants.
Still, the new solar projects in Clay and Lowndes County are an expansion of the state’s current solar output. Fiedler says more is coming. “Over the next 10 years, we’re planning to add about 5,000 megawatts of solar,” he said.