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States with the biggest jump in solar energy production? Mississippi’s one

Solar panels at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport began supplying power to the Mississippi Power grid in 2017.
Solar panels at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport began supplying power to the Mississippi Power grid in 2017.

Mississippi had one of the biggest jumps in solar energy production in the nation last year.

In 2016, Mississippi was 42nd among states for solar generation and by the end of 2017 jumped to No. 26.

Part of that increase was from the 13,000 solar panels installed at the Seabee Base in Gulfport in a $7 million project by the Department of Navy and Mississippi Power. It provides 3.29 megawatts, or enough to power about 450 homes.

A 50 MW solar facility was opened by Mississippi Power and Silicon Ranch near Hattiesburg this year, and a 52 MW solar energy facility was added in Lamar County by Cooperative Energy and Origis Energy USA. Mississippi Power also added a 52 MW solar plant in Lamar County this year, making it the state's largest renewable energy supplier.

In total, Mississippi added 66 MW in the last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report that was updated Thursday. That was the 10th largest gain in the county and increases the state’s solar capacity from 6 MW last year to 72 MW this year.

The report said that 25 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S. through the first three quarters of 2017 has come from solar, second to natural gas. Nationally, the solar industry added two gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the third quarter this year, the report says. Projects by utility companies accounted for 51 percent of that increase.

Non-residential such as businesses and communities that install solar grew by 22 percent in the last year. New residential installations, which historically have fueled growth in solar use, are expected to decline in 2017, said Austin Perea, solar analyst for GTM Research.

What will happen in 2018 could depend on whether tariffs will be added to foreign-manufactured cells and modules. The U.S. International Trade Commission has voted to impose increased tariffs in its recommendations to President Trump, who has until Jan. 26 to decide the outcome of the case.

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