Silicon Ranch cuts ribbon on 450-acre solar siteBy BETH BUNCH,
The sun outdid itself last Friday providing an abundance of green energy as officials cut the ribbon on the Hattiesburg Solar Farm, the second such facility in the Pine Belt.
Fourth-graders from Rowan Elementary School joined city, county and state officials as well as Silicon Ranch Corporation President and CEO Matt Kisber and Anthony L. Wilson, chairman, president and CEO of Mississippi Power, to officially open the 450-acre site located between Bonhomie Road and U.S. Hwy. 49 in south Hattiesburg.
“All of us at the Area Development Partnership want to thank Mississippi Power for its vision and commitment to bring low-cost, renewable power to Southeast Mississippi and our newest corporate citizen, Silicon Ranch, for investing and operating a world-class solar facility in our community,” said ADP President Chad Newell.
Silicon Ranch funded the $100 million project and will own and operate the facility for the long-term, an approach it takes with every project it develops.
The acreage consists of 198,548 fixed-tilt polycrystalline solar panels mounted to tables. The site produces 50 megawatts of energy, enough to break down electricity for 6,500 homes, 14,000 vehicles or 22,000 tons of waste. The green energy will reduce emissions equivalent to nearly eight million gallons of gasoline.
Mississippi Power has a contract with Silicon Ranch to purchase the electricity for the next 25 years.
“During the last 15 months, Mississippi Power and our partners have turned renewable energy in our state from a dream into a reality,” Mississippi Power’s Wilson said. “We’ve brought more than 100 megawatts of solar power online in the last three months and I would like to thank the teams of Silicon Ranch, the ADP and the Public Service Commission for their commitment to bringing this plant online to the benefit of the entire Pine Belt region.”
On July 7, the power entity partnered with DEPCOM Power and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments to open a slightly larger site in Sumrall. It produces 52 megawatts and has 215,000 solar panels that can create power for 8,000 homes.
With the addition of a site in Gulfport and an impending site in Lauderdale, which was given the go-ahead last month by the Mississippi Public Service Commission, Mississippi Power will be reaping the benefits of 160 megawatts of utility-scale solar energy, which can power roughly 23,000 homes.
With nearly 160 megawatts of approved solar power, Mississippi Power is the state’s largest partner in providing renewable energy.
Silicon Ranch’s Kisber is excited about this new facility in the Hub City.”
“Silicon Ranch is honored to be the newest corporate citizen of the Hattiesburg community, and we look forward to collaborating with the ADP to promote the economic and environmental benefits this project will bring to the city, to Forrest County and the surrounding region for years to come,” Kisber said.
“The leadership and Board of Directors at Mississipi Power deserve tremendous credit for their commitment to bring renewable power to Southeast Mississippi.”
According to Matt Beasley, chief marketing officer for Silicon Ranch, the solar panels are warrantied for 25 years.
“But we expect the facility to still be capable of producing power when the contract term expires,” Beasley said. “There is an expected marginal level of panel degradation on an annual basis, but they will still be producing consistent with the contract requirements when we reach Year 25.
“As far as maintenance is concerned, we often say that just because solar projects are relatively ;low maintenance,’ that doesn’t mean there’s ‘no maintenance’ required.
We have contracts in place with national O&M providers and also with local subcontractors who will perform routine and periodic maintenance activities on the plant.”
Beasley said they also monitor performance of each of their projects in real-time through their Network Operations Center.
“Should the project underperform for any reason, we will take immediate corrective measures through our network of service personnel who are located regionally to support our Mississippi portfolio,” he said. “A benefit of this ‘low maintenance’ requirement is that solar projects are good, quiet neighbors that don’t generate traffic during operations.”
Construction of the facility took about 15 months from the time it was first discussed until it went online this month. Construction of the site by Strata Solar employed about 350 workers, many of them local, to construct the facility.
According to Lyle Thompson, senior construction manager for Strata Solar, there were no serious accidents recorded during construction of the facility.
According to Thompson, the site received more than 70 inches of rain during construction.
“This added to the difficulty of the construction and further reinforces the collective teamwork required to finish the job,” Thompson said.
Based in Nashville, Silicon Ranch is one of the fastest-growing developers, owners and operators of solar energy plants in the United States. The company’s portfolio spans coast to coast and includes more than 1 gigawatt of PV systems that are contracted, under construction or operating, including the first large-scale solar projects in Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi.