Entergy’s solar project nears end of construction phase

Published 8:47 pm Saturday, November 14, 2015

Photo submitted / Posts sit under typically unused land between transmission lines, waiting for racks and solar panels. Rocks will be also be placed on the ground under the panels.

Photo submitted / Posts sit under typically unused land between transmission lines, waiting for racks and solar panels. Rocks will be also be placed on the ground under the panels.

A new source of energy will soon be fueling Mississippi’s power grid: the sun.

Entergy Mississippi is constructing three solar pilot projects — one of those is in Brookhaven off West Manufacturer’s Boulevard.

“It’s part one of three solar projects — pilot projects that we’re doing across the state,” Entergy Mississippi spokesperson Mara Hartmann said. “What we’re trying to do is determine how solar performs in different geographic regions in the state. So we have on in the south, a Belhaven one central here in Jackson and one in DeSoto County.”

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Brookhaven will serve as Entergy’s southern location. Each location will test out different methods and provide data for Entergy on how different conditions and regions affect energy output.

“In Brookhaven, we are building underneath our transmission lines in right-of-way,” Hartmann said. “We’re studying different areas. That’s the only one built in right-of-way under transmission lines, which is normally unused ground. You can’t really use it for anything else, so we’re seeing how it will work out as a potential solar site.”

Hartmann said things look promising, but there are many questions that need to be answered.

“What we’ve got to understand are the locational differences, different weather patterns, capacity factor and the irradiance at different locations,” Hartmann said. “That sort of thing is what we’re looking at, and once they’re all three up and running — and have been for awhile — then we can begin to see how solar will fit in to our fuel mix here in Mississippi.”

Solar panels in Brookhaven and DeSoto County will be fixed in place, while the ones in Jackson will tilt to follow the sun during the day. Hartman said this will test the differences in output between different solar panel configurations.

Solar panels for the $4.5 million project will be provided by Stion Corporation in Hattiesburg. According to an Entergy press release, the solar arrays in Lincoln and DeSoto counties will be 500-kilowatt systems.

“Combined, the three sites will provide electricity for approximately 175 single-family residences,” Entergy said. “The projects will include real-time data monitoring that will be linked to Entergy Mississippi’s website for all to view.”

All of this is part of what Entergy is calling its Bright Future plan.

“The Bright Future plan is a blueprint for Mississippi’s electric service needs through 2025,” Entergy said. “The plan, approved by the Mississippi Public Service Commission, is designed to improve reliability, modernize the grid, maintain an adequate workforce, stabilize rates, use new technologies and attract new industry.”

Construction in Brookhaven is underway, but Hartmann said weather plays a factor.

“It was rocking and rolling along, and then the rains of the last couple weeks really hampered our efforts,” Hartmann said. “It’s a muddy mess right now. We haven’t done a lot of additional work since the rain.”

Hartmann said right now they are working to complete the underground portion of the installation before more rain hits.

“That’s what we’re battling now, is the rain issue, and it’s slowed us down,” Hartmann said. “We hope to be finished before the end of the year. The weather may play a factor there, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Entergy Mississippi provides electricity to about 442,000 customers in 45 counties. Hartmann said, depending on the pilot results, solar could provide a significant source of energy in Mississippi.