Bright Future solar project

Haley Fisackerly, CEO of Entergy Mississippi, looks on as DeSoto County Supervisor Bill Russell prepares to flip the switch on a pilot solar test project called "Bright Future."

The switch has been flipped to turn on a new way of harnessing the power of the sun for electricity to north Mississippi and the rest of the region. 

Entergy Mississippi representatives and DeSoto County officials Tuesday celebrated the start of a "Bright Future" solar test project located along U.S. Highway 61 near the DeSoto-Tunica County line.

Bright Future is the name of Entergy's plan, approved by the Mississippi Public Service Commission, to address the state's service needs in the next ten years.

The 3,700-panel project is the first of three similar efforts to determine the best way for the utility to harness solar energy. Entergy also is completing sites near Jackson and Brookhaven, both of which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The DeSoto County and Brookhaven sites will be equipped with fixed solar panels while the one in Jackson will have motors that will move the panels to follow the sun.

Don Arnold, lead customer service representative for Entergy's northern region in Southaven, said the three-acre site can be a good supplement to current generation methods.

"It would power a small subdivision of about 60 homes," Arnold said. "This is the very first commercial solar project in Mississippi. It's also good that it is located where it is because we're trying to attract industry to that area."

Arnold said new companies are putting a greater emphasis on alternative means of energy.

"A lot of industry is now looking at alternative types of power," Arnold said. "I think this will be a drawing point for somebody when you're out there trying to recruit industry to the area."

The location in a vacant field along U.S. Highway 61 had been owned by Entergy as a site for a future power plant until now.

Part of the purpose for the plant is to answer some of the many questions about solar while giving customers access to the renewable energy source.

"Spreading the sites across the state will help us understand locational differences, capacity factor, different weather patterns and irradiance at different locations," said Entergy Mississippi transmission official Aaron Hill. "The project will also help answer questions about the economics of solar power and how efficient of feasible it will be at various locations in Mississippi."

Arnold added each location will be fitted with weather stations and provide real-time information to customers through its website.

"You'll be able to pull up a dashboard and it will tell you what a particular project is doing at that moment," Arnold said. "How much electricity it is producing, if the sun is shining, what the humidity is, and then you can all see and compare the three different sites."

The total cost of the entire three-plant project is estimated to be less than $5 million. A company from Hattiesburg, Stion Corporation, is producing the panels for the project.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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