A solar panel facility in Sumrall.

One of Mississippi’s key utility providers is looking past recent cloudy weather and into the future: a new solar energy farm in Sunflower County within the next four years.

Entergy Mississippi announced plans for the 1,000-acre facility Thursday morning, advertising with it 100 megawatts of renewable energy for its service area in 45 counties. The project is now pending approval from the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

The facility, expected to cost approximately $138.4 million, would become the largest utility-owned solar farm in the state, according to a news release from Entergy.

“Building the utility of the future means embracing new technologies,” said Haley Fisackerly, Entergy Mississippi president and chief executive officer. “The Sunflower Solar Facility will support our plan to offer community solar to customers who want renewable energy as part of their energy mix.”

The facility, expected to be finished by 2022, will include a single-axis tracking photovoltaic power generator, and its 350,000 PV modules will be able to generate enough clean energy to power over 16,000 homes, according to Entergy. Once finished, the emissions-free solar farm will connect to Entergy’s transmission grid in Ruleville.

“The commission has been looking forward to more solar power for the state,” said Ryan Brown, deputy commissioner at PSC. “It’s great news for the Delta and it’s great news for Mississippi.”

Brown said the project will bring down costs for rate payers, and that PSC is hoping to expand the state’s solar energy usage.

“It’s a developing industry,” he said. “We’ve brought over a tremendous amount of solar power to Mississippi over the last three years and we certainly hope that trend continues.”

Recurrent Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar Inc., will construct the facility on behalf of Entergy.

The utility company first experimented with solar energy in 2016, building three pilot sites in Brookhaven, Hinds and DeSoto counties.

“The solar pilot projects helped answer many questions about solar in Mississippi and were the genesis for this larger project,” said Fisackerly.

The pilot was the first utility-owned solar project in the state, and the three sites produce enough electricity (500 kW each) to power 175 homes.

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Alex Rozier, from New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Open Secrets, and on NBC.com. In 2019, Alex was a grantee through the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines program, which supported his coverage around the impact of climate change on Mississippi fisheries.