By Floyd Ingram
CHICKASAW COUNTY – It was a sunny day Wednesday in Chickasaw County as dirt was turned on a new 30-acre, $9 million solar farm south of Okolona.
State and local officials gathered for a groundbreaking for Commodore Solar Farm that will see 9,804 solar panels track the Sun and glean enough energy from it to power 300 homes for a year. The facility is being built by Phoenix Solar of San Ramon, Calif.
“For projects like this to be successful, it is pivotal to have innovative, forward thinking utility partners,” said Phoenix Solar Regional Director Jeff Lee. “We are very fortunate and lucky to work with Justin Sullivan and the Okolona Electric Department on this project. Their team continues to be a huge asset and provide great assistance and technical expertise along the way.”
While city, county and state elected officials joined local, regional and state economic developers in welcoming the solar farm to Chickasaw County, construction equipment could be heard digging, hauling and building the solar farm on Filgo Road east of Highway 45.
Lee said construction should be complete by mid December and electricity could be pumped into a substation just north of the site by the first of the year. The facility will be able to produce 3 million watts of clean, carbon free electricity a year.
Commodore Solar Farm will be the largest in the state. Economic development officials hinted more solar farms could spring up in Chickasaw County and around the state as the success of Commodore is proved.
“This is a great day for our community and a great day for Chickasaw County,” said Chickasaw County Supervisor Jerry Hall. “We want to thank Josh West and Three Rivers Planning and Development for their hard work and Commodore Solar and Phoenix Solar for coming to this area and investing in us.”
Three Rivers Developer Josh West said the site will not provide a lot of jobs but it will show that Chickasaw County is on the cutting edge of technology and innovation. The farm is located adjacent to a much larger 900-plus acre industrial development site know as the Hopewell Mega Site that has access to Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) power, four-lane highway and rail transportation.
“Finding a feasible site with the time constraints was challenging but well worth the effort,” said West of the deal that brought TVA, Phoenix and Three Rivers to Chickasaw County. “The company’s investment of over $9 million in this project before their first transmission means this site is going to be a long term asset and that is good for Chickasaw County.”
The project was made possible through TVA’s renewable energy program.
By Floyd Ingram
HOUSTON – Chickasaw County is growing solar farms faster than any other county in Northeast Mississippi.
A public hearing Monday in Houston before Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley saw no one oppose permits for two new solar arrays to be built on the red, sandy soil around Houston.
Presley then signed an order approving construction of two new solar facilities in Chickasaw County. The facilities will produce a combined 4.9 megawatts of electricity and expand the footprint of solar power production in Mississippi.
Chickasaw County was one of the first in Northeast Mississippi to build a solar farm. That site, just south of Okolona, saw ground broken in November 2014. Power was being pumped onto the grid by December of that year.
“Yet again, momentous progress is being made in Mississippi in the quest to harness the power of the sun,” Presley said. “Mississippi certainly has no shortage of sunshine, and every solar panel we put up pulls us that much further from the grip of foreign nations who hate our guts.”
The construction, operation and maintenance of the two facilities will be done by Chickasaw Solar LLC, and Solar Ranch Houston LLC. The investment, totaling nearly $11 million, will produce enough energy to serve 552 homes in the area.
Solar Ranch is the company that brought the first farm to Okolona.
Presley and the Commission have approved several solar farms across the state this year from regulated utilities, such as Entergy, and from independent power producers. Those projects are located throughout the state, including sites in Brookhaven, Jackson and Senatobia.
Presley approved solar facilities in Lowndes County in recent months which are similar to those approved Monday.
Solar farms need nearly 100 acres of level ground that is not in a flood zone and is near a three-phase power line. Property owners typically contract with a solar farm company that erects solar panels on the land and works with TVA to get the electricity generated on the grid.
The solar farm in Okolona has 9,804 solar panels that track the sun and glean enough energy from it to power 300 homes a year. The facility can produce 3 megawatts of clean, carbon free electricity a year. The Okolona site was the largest solar farm in the state when it was built. The Okolona solar array is adjacent to a much larger 900-plus acre industrial development site know as the Hopewell Mega Site that has access to Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) power, four-lane highway and rail transportation.
“I am very grateful for the investments that have been made in Mississippi to make us more energy independent,” Presley said. “These facilities produce clean, efficient energy and really are a win-win situation for the state, local community and landowner.”
Chickasaw County is also home to the Houston Solar Car, a 14-time National Solar Car Challenge race winner. The Houston Solar Car is headed to Australia in October to race across the Outback in the World Solar Car Challenge.