The Mississippi Public Service Commission is one step closer to approving a new solar facility in Scott County that could be the biggest in the state after issuing an order at its monthly meeting Tuesday.
The PSC voted to refer the matter to Central District Commissioner Brent Bailey for a hearing, report and recommendation on the 175 megawatt solar facility, known as the Pearl River Solar Park. The facility will require an initial investment of $235 million and it will be owned by EDP Renewables North America, an energy firm based in Houston.
The facility will be built on 1,760 acres in northwest Scott County just over the line from Rankin County.
According to filings from EDP with the commission, the electricity customer for the solar farm has yet to be determined, but the company is in discussions with potential customers.
One of the state’s electric power associations, Central Electric Power Association, has filed as an intervenor in the docket. Doing so allows the EPA to receive notifications and provide comments and possible testimony from expert witnesses.
The non-profit cooperative says it takes no position on the merits of the facility, but wants the commission to protect its rights to be the sole provider of electricity to the solar park since the facility is located in Central’s certificated area of operation.
Both of the state’s investor-owned utilities are building solar facilities. Entergy received approval in April 2020 from the commission for a 100 megawatt solar farm on 1,000 acres in the Mississippi Delta’s Sunflower County that is scheduled to go online by 2022.
Mississippi Power has three solar facilities with a total of 150 megawatts of capacity, with one located in Hattiesburg, another in Sumrall and the last in Lauderdale County near Meridian.
The commission also approved an order that gives interested parties 60 days to file comments in the net metering docket. The commission is seeking input on how to modify the existing rule, which was approved in 2015 by the commission.
Net metering is a billing practice that allows property owners with renewable generation capacity from solar panels or wind turbines to sell their excess generation capacity back to the grid in the form of credits.
While the practice is growing nationwide, growth in Mississippi has been a slower process. Mississippi is one of six states that doesn’t mandate that utilities buy back power from distributed generation customers at the same rate they purchased it from the grid.
The state’s two invest-owned utilities and non-profit electric power associations are empowered by the existing rule to set the rates by which they will credit renewable customers selling excess generation capacity back to the grid, based on the costs the utilities avoid.