Solar farm in City on agenda of California company

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

A California company plans to build a solar energy farm in Natchitoches Parish on 171 acres in the Natchitoches South Industrial Park that is south of the Pilgrim’s Pride feed mill. The City Council approved the lease of the property at its Aug. 12 meeting. Scott Risley is director of project Development for ET Capital Solar Partners USA Inc., headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif.

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“We’d like to mention that we very much appreciate the help we’ve received from Tony Davis from the Natchitoches Community Alliance. Tony has been a great help and has made the City a very welcoming place for economic development,” Risley wrote in an email. The company plans to build a solar farm and has arranged an option to lease the land. “However, we are in the very early stages of development there are a number of approvals which remain to be obtained from the City and other authorities. We also have to obtain permission from the Southwest Power Pool (“SPP”) to interconnect the proposed project with the electrical grid before we can say for certain whether we will be able to actually build the facility.

“The longest lead-time item in the development process is usually interconnection. The SPP interconnection process takes a minimum of 505 days to complete, so we wouldn’t be able to begin construction for at least a year and a half.” Risley said the project will be a solar photovoltaic (PV) generating facility.

A solar PV generator consists of a number of solar panels installed on specially designed metal racks. This group of panels collectively absorbs sunlight using the photovoltaic cells embedded in the panels. These are the same panels homeowners install on the roofs of their homes, just many more of them, clustered together. Sunlight strikes the panels causing electrons within the solar cells to move and generate direct current (DC) electricity. The current from each panel is collected together with the current generated from the other panels in the field and routed to a device called an inverter.

The inverter converts the direct current (DC) energy into alternating current (AC) energy. The AC energy then flows into the local power grid for use in homes, businesses and industry. “Presently we don’t have any local investors, but as I mentioned we’re in the process of assembling the capital necessary to build the project which could involve local participation,” Risley said. It’s too early in the project’s life cycle to have a contract to sell the energy.

However, the company hopes to sell the power to a local investor-owned utility, a local power cooperative or possibly even a municipal electric utility. The solar farm will support a number of construction jobs as the project is being built, but it’s too early in the development process to say how many.

“We presently anticipate that this project will have a nameplate capacity of about 20MW,” Risley said.

Risley provided the following link to  some quick facts and figures about solar energy in Louisiana: https://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/louisiana-solar. This information is from the Solar Energy Industries Association, our industry’s largest trade organization.