New $98M solar farm pitched in Louisiana as utilities look to buy more renewable power

New $98M solar farm pitched in Louisiana as utilities look to buy more renewable power

BY KRISTEN MOSBRUCKER | Staff writer  Published Mar 15, 2021

With utilities such as Entergy, Cleco and LUS looking to buy renewable energy, another solar farm is being proposed in Louisiana.

A $98 million solar farm in Morehouse Parish is seeking tax breaks for manufacturing renewable power, according to an advance notification filed with the state economic development office. 

Bayou Galion Solar Project LLC, a subsidiary of Recurrent Energy Development Holdings, proposes building a 98.1-megawatt solar farm on 1,000 acres leased from landowners outside of Bastrop. That has the potential to power 20,500 homes. 

The company is also a subsidiary of Canadian Solar, a publicly traded business that manufactures solar panels and  builds solar farms. 

Bayou Galion estimates it would create three permanent jobs to run the solar farm and support 150 construction jobs starting in July 2022 and wrapping up by December 2024. The company is seeking up to 80% property tax abatement for 10 years through the state's Industrial Tax Exemption Program. So far, all of the solar farms proposed in Louisiana have been approved for economic incentives, but some residents have pushed back to include a local permitting process.  

It was not immediately clear whether Bayou Galion Solar Project expects to bid on an Entergy contract, but construction of the solar farm is not dependent on a contract with the utility. Bayou Galion did not respond to a request for comment.

Demand for solar farms has increased since Entergy announced it would be buying solar power. Entergy has been mostly interested in solar farms in southeast Louisiana, according to recent bid records.

However, new requests for proposals are expected in the coming years as part of "a recurring series of RFPs for renewable resources to support ongoing Entergy Louisiana energy needs to capitalize on the improving economics of solar and potentially offer other technologies relative to conventional resources," according to Entergy. 

West Baton Rouge Parish saw the state's first utility-scale solar farm, 50 megawatts, that is being connected to the power grid under a 20-year power supply contract with Entergy. 

The utility has two open requests for proposals: one for 300 megawatts released in June 2020 and a second opened this month for 500 megawatts of power. Entergy Louisiana has made final selections with undisclosed companies for its 300-megawatt proposal and is still negotiating a deal. 

Elsewhere in Louisiana, Lafayette Utilities System wants to diversify its power sources into renewable energy by purchasing up to 300 megawatts of solar power.

Separately, Pineville-based electric utility Cleco, which has a regulated unit serving 24 parishes primarily in central and south Louisiana and an unregulated unit serving nine Louisiana electric cooperatives, announced it is looking to add 400 megawatts of solar electricity in the coming years. 

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The power generation industry has always looked for cheaper ways to produce energy.  In our area, NG was king until it cost too much and then coal became the primary fuel.  Now, solar and wind is cheaper and NG is feeling the sting of keeping up or falling out of the game.  Solar is going to get cheaper and it's just a matter of time before it's common. 

A number of LA electric utilities currently have requests for solar capacity however the capacity is modest.  Louisiana may actually be better suited for offshore wind and thermal.  If the state gets serious about clean energy, a couple of peaker NG plants may provide all the back up generation capacity the state needs for the next thirty or so years.  That would retire all coal fired capacity on an expedited timeline and provide plenty of time to add ever increasing efficiency and lower cost clean energy technology. 

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