For full article see: Mississippi Business Journal

In recent years, customer surveys for the 11 rural electric cooperatives in Mississippi that purchase power from the not-for-profit Cooperative Energy (formerly South Mississippi Electric Power Association) have indicated a higher interest in using “green” power — electricity generated from alternative energy sources such as wind, hydro-electric and solar.

Now one of the state’s largest ever commercial solar projects is under way in Sumrall where a 52-megawatt solar farm encompassing 208,000 photovoltaic solar panels spread out over 540 acres is expected to go online for Cooperative Energy by the end of the year.

“The prices on solar continue to come down,” said Christa Bishop, senior vice president of communications at Cooperative Energy, which generates wholesale electricity for the rural electric cooperatives in 55 counties in Mississippi.

The Sumrall facility is being built and will be operated by Origis Energy Inc. Cooperative Energy will purchase the all electricity generated at the facility, which is expected to provide power to more than 10,000 homes and result in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 54,672 kilograms per year.

“We are honored to be working with Cooperative Energy as they power more homes and businesses with solar every year,” said Johan Vanhee, managing director of business development for Origis Energy. “These utility and community leaders understand that solar provides clean, affordable power while creating jobs, economic and environmental benefits.”

To celebrate the partnership, Origis and Cooperative Energy recently made a joint donation to the Mississippi Economic Council’s Mississippi Scholars and Tech Masters programs. Mississippi Scholars provides a focus on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum and is offered in 118 school districts. Tech Master is designed to provide technical skills to help students have the ability to thrive in the workplace.

Vanhee said there is an enormous nationwide demand for technical expertise in many industries.

“We are seeing a high demand for many skilled, technical positions in the energy industry alone, but there are a multitude of other industry sectors where high-paying jobs are available,” he said.

“We have been impressed with the quality of the work force in Mississippi, but we need to increase the quantity. Origis Energy is a strong supporter of education, and Mississippi Scholars and Tech Master were the ideals vehicles for that support through their STEM-based education initiatives.”

The donation also reflects an interest in supporting a trained work force in Mississippi to help keep companies and communities strong.

“The Mississippi Scholars and Tech Master programs are helping Mississippi students by providing the coursework and