In Tallahatchie County, farming the sun soon may become as commonplace as farming the land.
NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of Florida-based NextEra Energy, hopes to construct a solar energy farm on some 1,000 acres of land in western Tallahatchie County — if it can first receive commitments for purchase of the electricity that would be generated there.
Thursday morning, during a recessed meeting in Charleston, the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors approved a package of incentives, including tax exemptions, to help pave the way for the green-energy development.
During the 2022 session of the Mississippi Legislature, state Rep. Tommy Reynolds added an amendment to House Bill 1108 to authorize county boards of supervisors and municipal government officials to grant a partial ad valorem tax exemption “for certain renewable energy projects,” such as this proposed solar farm.
“I introduced this amendment to make Mississippi competitive with other states,” said Reynolds, who noted that Mississippi has been overlooked for solar investments in the past because adjacent states like Arkansas and Alabama have been able to offer more and better incentives.
Reynolds said the new legislation helps to level the playing field.
“It allows us to have tax incentives like other states,” he said. “Really, if they crunch the numbers, I think it will be a little bit more friendly.”
Karl Kremser, director of development for the proposed Wildwood Solar project in Tallahatchie County, said such incentives are critical.
“This is a very competitive market, the sale of energy. It’s just like selling gas at a gas station. There’s essentially companies trying to sell power at every corner, if you will,” Kremser noted. “So, these tax incentives help us, allow us, to lower our [offered] price per kilowatt hour and, hopefully, the customers that we present this to will choose us.”
Kremser said the electricity that would be generated by the 100-megawatt solar facility would be enough to power 15,000 to 20,000 homes.
Solar panels — thousands of them — would capture the sun’s energy, which would be converted into direct current electricity and then pass through inverters to produce alternating current. That would be available to transmit to the power grid via transmission lines at the site.
Kremser said energy from the site would be sold by competitive bid.
“It can be utilities like Entergy, it can be commercial customers like Amazon and Google,” he noted. “It’s open for anybody to buy, and if we can offer a lower price than our competitors, then they choose us. And if they choose us, that’s what allows us to bring the project to Tallahatchie County.”
While the tax incentives would help the Wildwood project bid its generated electricity more competitively, Kremser stressed that “just because we get the tax incentive approved does not mean the project is for sure. We still have to sell the power.”
NextEra Energy Resources’ Wildwood Solar project currently has a long-term lease option on about 1,500 acres situated below Webb, south of the intersection of U.S. 49 East and Mississippi 32 West, noted Kremser.
He said three private landowners own the agricultural land, which rests on both sides of Highway 49.
The actual solar project would consist of close to 1,000 acres, he noted.
Reynolds said part of the benefit to local residents is that if the project progresses, 200 to 300 jobs would be created during the 14- to 15-month construction phase.
“People would be trained for that, and [some] of those workers would be people that would come from here,” Reynolds said.
Kremser concurred, noting that the engineering, procurement and construction firms brought in to acquire workers for these projects are encouraged to hire locally.
“The folks they hire can get those skills on their resume and translate them to other projects that pop up around the state or neighboring states,” Kremser said. “It’s really good to build that skill set for the locals.”
If supervisors adopt the tax incentives Thursday, Reynolds said the package would be passed on to the Mississippi Development Authority for final approval.
“It’s the best thing since sliced bread if it works,” said Reynolds, who noted that NextEra Energy has $85 billion in investments nationwide.
“The thing about it is, it’s going to happen," added Reynolds. "If it doesn’t happen in Mississippi, it’s going to happen somewhere else. We don’t need to be reactive, we need to be proactive in this thing.”
Despite a partial tax exemption, Reynolds said the solar farm would pay up to $25 million in ad valorem property taxes over 30 years — that, after an initial capital investment of roughly $150 million.
“We may not get this, but this gives us a chance to get it,” said Reynolds.
To find out more about the project, see Wildwood Solar on Facebook or visit https://www.nexteraenergyresources.com/ wildwood-solar-project/get-informed.html.