Last Friday Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power, in conjunction with Silicon Ranch, celebrated the commissioning of a 50 MW-AC solar plant in Hattiesburg in southern Mississippi. The plant was constructed by Strata Solar.
The Hattiesburg plant will supply electricity to Mississippi Power customers and is the second large solar plant which has come online in the utility’s service area in the three months’s time, following a 52 MW-AC project in Sumrall in July.
And it is not the last planned project between the utility and developer. Less than one month ago, Mississippi regulators approved a 25-year contract for Mississippi Power to buy electricity for another 52 MW-AC project at a Navy base, which Silicon Ranch expects to have online in December 2019.
Add in a 4 MW project in Gulfport, and Mississippi Power has reached 160 MW-AC of solar under contract in the state. This is not a bad feat for a state that had the 36th-largest solar market in 2016.
This progress says a lot about Southern Company’s embrace of solar, which has helped to make the South a leading region for solar development. This is a natural fit for the region because the South experiences peaks in electricity demand on hot summer days thanks to widespread use of air conditioning, making solar ideal for reducing the use of costly “peaking” plants.
However, there are still states and utilities in the region which are lagging behind. It is likely that Mississippi has already surpassed neighboring Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana in terms of installed solar, as these states are building few if any large-scale projects.