GULFPORT -- Three solar farms will be built in Mississippi, including one in Gulfport, to generate energy for Mississippi Power.
The state Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved construction of the farms in Gulfport, Sumrall and Hattiesburg at a total cost of about $208 million. Each of the three farms is being built by different solar companies and financed by investors who will sell the energy they produce to Mississippi Power.
The farms will generate enough energy to power 15,500 homes for a year, the power company says. Mississippi Power has 186,000 customers in 23 counties.
The smallest of the farms, being built on the Seabee Base in Gulfport, will sit on two sites that total 23 acres. Atlanta-based Hannah Solar is building the farm, which will include 18,740 solar panels in racks on the ground, said Greg Kelly, Hannah's vice president of sales and service.
Construction will cost about $6 million, he said, and the project should start in January and be completed in July.
Hannah will use its own project managers and some electricians for construction, but Kelly said the company also plans to hire about 60 local contractors, electricians and other workers.
Strata Solar of Chapel Hill, N.C., is building a $100 million solar farm on 450 acres in Hattiesburg. A third solar installation will be built by Origis Energy, which has offices overseas and in Miami, for $102 million in Sumrall.
Mississippi Power spokesman William Snyder said subsidiaries of Strata and Origis are financing those plants.
The Hannah Solar plant is being financed by WGL Energy, a mid-Atlantic utility, Kelly said.
"Solar is going crazy right now because the federal tax credit is expected to decrease from 30 percent to 10 percent by the end of next year." Kelly said.
A news release from Mississippi Power said the company will receive energy and renewable-energy credits from the projects, which can be used to serve customers, sold at wholesale prices to third parties or applied toward other energy programs.
The U.S. Navy is partnering on the Gulfport project and others across the country to help improve energy security and availability, said Robert Mims, Seabee Base public affairs officer.
The Navy is leasing the Seabee Base acreage where the farm will be built to Mississippi Power at fair market value, Mims said. He said having the solar farm on the Seabee Base will provide added security.