February 4, 2020 9:58:52 AM
A $200 million solar farm that would both generate and store electric power could come to Lowndes County after supervisors approved a resolution of intent Monday morning to offer a fee-in-lieu agreement to help bring the power company to the area.
MS Solar 5, a Delaware-based branch of solar energy company Origis Development, is considering Lowndes County as the location for its facility, said Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development LINK.
The final decision rests with the company and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the latter of which will have to award the contract to the company for it to come to the county, Higgins said.
"If Origis and TVA come to terms, then this project will happen," he said.
The LINK does not usually disclose an incoming company's real name until a deal is finalized, Higgins said, but Origis reached out to the LINK last week asking to be unveiled.
"Normally we ... will use a code name," Higgins said. "(But Origis) said, 'Hey, we are ready. We wanna come out of the closet. We wanna tell everybody who we are.'"
If TVA awards the contract soon, Higgins said, construction could start by spring and the plant could be fully operational by fall 2022.
The resolution of intent the supervisors passed Monday morning would allow the county to enter a fee-in-lieu agreement with the company contingent upon the completion of the project. Under the agreement, the company would only pay one-third of the county and school property taxes for 10 years, starting from when the project is completed, said County Administrator Ralph Billingsley. After that, the company would begin paying full taxes.
Fee-in-lieu agreements are common in Lowndes County for industries investing at least $100 million.
The solar farm, if built, would initially generate 200 megawatts each year, with the potential of a further expansion to reach an annual rate 350 megawatts in the future, Higgins said.
"To put a face on that, Steel Dynamics is Tennessee Valley Authority's biggest customer," he said. "(It) uses about 360 megawatts (per year)."
The project would be the first solar farm in Mississippi that can both generate and retain power at the same time, Higgins said. The site would occupy hundreds of acres west of Charleigh Ford Drive and extend all the way south to the northern border of the 1,144-acre Infinity Megasite, Higgins said.
The project would bring to the region hundreds of job opportunities for installing the solar panels, Higgins said, and the staff to maintain the panels on site would be between 10 to 20.
But the most important benefits, Higgins said, are the amount of renewable power and tax revenues the county and the school district would receive.
"It's gonna pay about $400,000 in taxes to Lowndes County (each of the first 10 years under the fee-in-lieu agreement)," he said, "and it's gonna pay more than that... probably close to $500,000 in county school taxes each year."
Yue Stella Yu is the local government reporter for The Dispatch. Reach her at 662-328-2424 (ext 106) or follow her on Twitter @StellaYu_Mizzou
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