Pair of solar energy projects planned in Mississippi

A pair of solar energy projects planned for Mississippi could help determine whether electricity derived from the sun’s rays becomes a more commonplace power source in the state.

The state Public Service Commission recently approved a plan from Entergy Mississippi to install sets of solar panels at to-be-determined sites in Hinds, Lincoln and Tate counties as part of a pilot program in which the utility will study the advantages and drawbacks of solar electricity. Phoenix Solar, a San Ramon, California, company, has won regulatory approval to build Commodore Solar Farm near Okolona in Chickasaw County.

Entergy will install 500 thin-film solar panels on about five acres apiece. The Lincoln County and Tate County sites will have “fixed-tilt” panels that will be stationary and pointed toward the sun. The Hinds County sites’ panels will move and follow the sun’s path each day. The utility’s $4.3 million project aims to see if solar energy can become part of its fuel-source mix and will use panels made at and installed by the Hattiesburg office of Stion, a renowned solar panel producer.

“I’m excited,” said Aaron Hill, project manager for the Entergy effort. “The sun is a great source of energy. The technology (to harness that energy) continues to get better.” Each site will be able to generate up to 500 kilowatts of electricity. Hill said the panels should be operating by the end of 2015.

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