For article see: Hattiesburg American

HATTIESBURG, Mississippi – Friday marked the dedication of the largest solar facility in Mississippi, as officials from around the state gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new 52-megawatt Lamar County Solar Energy Facility near Sumrall.

“This is a great day for us, and it’s a great day for Mississippi,” said Anthony Wilson, chairman, president and CEO of Mississippi Power. “This is an important day for us, for our company, as we continue to be a part of leading toward the future of energy in the state of Mississippi.

“To do something this large, it takes a lot of commitment — it takes a shared vision by a lot of different people. It took a lot of hard work to get all of this done, and everyone pulled together to get more renewables in the state of Mississippi.”

The electricity created at the facility is delivered to the Mississippi Power wholesale grid at or below the company’s avoided cost, which is the projected amount it would cost the company to generate comparable energy from other sources. The energy and renewable energy credits may be used to serve customers with renewable energy, for future renewable energy programs or to sell at wholesale to third parties.

The project, which includes a 25-year power purchase agreement with Mississippi Power, created about 400 jobs, with a peak manload of 360 at any one time. Of those, about 90 percent were local hires, along with about 30 percent military veterans.

“There are a number of important things about this,” former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said. “First of all, I do like the fact that we’ve employed local people, and I do like the fact that we’ve employed a lot of the veterans. I also like the fact that a new, modern, innovative technology is locating right here in Lamar County. This is a very special occasion, and going forward it’s going to help us with our needs.”

The Lamar County Solar Energy Facility is the first of two solar farms in the Sumrall area, as construction began in May on a 470-acre solar farm off Mississippi 42. That project, which is a partnership between Hattiesburg-based Cooperative Energy and international solar energy provider Origis Energy, is expected to finish in December and will provide clean energy to the generation and transmission cooperative’s 423,000 members across Mississippi.

Photo: Susan Broadbridge / Hattiesburg American