300 MW solar project proposal receives backlash in Louisiana


A second solar project of previously unforeseen capacity could be coming to Louisiana, as local officials in Calcasieu Parish on Lake Charles, midway between New Orleans and Houston, Texas, have approved a zoning exception for developer Aurora Solar, a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables.

The exception was issued for the Chalkley Solar Project, named for a historic local family who founded the company that is leasing the land to Aurora. According to Aurora’s zoning exception application, the Chalkey project  would use roughly one million solar modules and have a nameplate capacity between 300 and 400 MW.

The project is expected to sit on roughly 2,400 acres of “lower-value farmland” off of Highway 14, with Aurora specifically choosing lower-value farmland so as not to occupy what could otherwise be lucrative land.

The project is expected to generate between $30 million and $40 million in property taxes over its 30-year lifespan, and would create 300 to 500 temporary construction jobs and three to four full-time jobs.

The project has drawn significant opposition from locals, however with more than 1,000 names being presented in opposition at the zoning meeting. concerns from these residents generally regard the size of the project, its impact on the local environment, damage that project hardware could cause as debris in the event of a hurricane destroying it, and why their town was specifically chosen.

Some also called into question the local official’s authority to grant the specific type of zoning exemption that was granted.

A petition in opposition of the Chalkley Solar Project on change.org was able to garner 681 supporters before closing, calling the project a “metal/mirror wasteland that can potentially destroy or at least harm vast amounts of wildlife.”

Solar life in Louisiana

The Chalkley Solar Project, if approved, will become the second project in the 300 MW range coming to Louisiana, a state not historically known for its utility-scale solar.

The other such installation is the 345 MW Ventress Solar project, set to start construction by the end of this year and slated for completion in 2023. Lightsource bp is developing the project, which will be located 30 miles northwest of Baton Rouge in Pointe Coupee Parish.

If both end up completed, the projects would represent a nearly 400% increase in the state’s total installed solar capacity, which currently sits at roughly 190 MW, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

These projects would also outpace SEIA’s expectations for solar capacity additions in the state over the next five years, which currently sits at 507 MW.

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