Lawmakers said Wednesday that a $250 million wind farm is planned for Tunica County.

Two major renewable energy projects are planned for Mississippi, including the state’s first wind-power farm.

Lawmakers said Wednesday that a $250-million wind farm is planned for Tunica County and a $140-million to $160-million solar farm for Chickasaw County. The state Senate approved allowing the local counties to provide tax breaks for the projects.

The Tunica project, Tunica Wind Power LLC, would be the state’s first wind farm, state Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said. The Chickasaw solar farm would be that area’s third one, and several others are operating across the state.

With recent wind-power debate from widespread power outages in Texas, Presley pointed out that the projects would only sell power wholesale to the Tennessee Valley Authority or nationally, not directly to any customers. Presley said the Tunica project has applied for PSC approval, but the Chickasaw solar project has not.

 “(The wind farm) will have 100 wind turbines on 13,000 acres in Tunica, be a 200-megawatt facility, able to power at max capacity 7,000 homes,” Presley said.

“In light of what we’ve seen in Texas, we will be asking them about their winterization efforts,” Presley said.

Presley said he knows few details about the Chickasaw County solar project. Lawmakers provided few specific details about the projects on Wednesday before the Senate approved the tax breaks.

The state Senate approved SB 2895, which would allow the two counties’ boards of supervisors to reduce the ad valorem tax assessment on property for the projects from 15% to 8%. Senate Finance Chairman Josh Harkins said this would allow the counties to be “competitive” with areas in other states and help finalize the projects.

Sen. Barbara Blackmon, D-Canton, questioned the tax break: “Have they said they will not come with the existing (tax valuation)?”

Harkins said: “(Not reducing the tax values) would be about an extra $1 million in taxes compared to other surrounding states. We are competing within the Tennessee Valley Authority.”

The measure passed unanimously, with one “present” vote by Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R-Picayune.

Sen. Benjamin Suber, R-Bruce, who represents the area for the Chickasaw project, said that the 1,100-acre property now only generates about $5,000 a year in ad valorem taxes for the county. Even with the approved tax value reduction, he said it is expected to generate more than $800,000 a year for the county. He noted no state or other taxes would be affected by the bill the Senate passed.

The bill would allow such an ad valorem value reduction only for “transformative” projects investing $100 million or more, Harkins said.

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.