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Renewable Energy

Louisiana Breaks Ground On Largest Ongoing Solar Project

Entergy worker, Photo: Entergy press release

Construction is now underway on two new solar projects in Louisiana, which combined represent the state’s largest ongoing solar endeavor. The two projects include the 492-acre Iris Solar project in Washington Parish and the approximately 218-acre St. James site in St. James Parish, both slated for a mid-2021 completion date.

The project is led by New York City-based D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI) — an investor in and operator of U.S. renewable projects — and Entergy New Orleans, a gas and electric utility that services 200,000 customers with electric and 108,000 customers with gas in Orleans Parish. DESRI confirmed the news in a press release

DESRI said in the release that the two projects are expected to create up to 250 jobs during construction. The project’s financing was fulfilled by several lenders including coordinating lead arranger Societe Generale, as well as joint lead arrangers CIBC and Truist Bank. Acadian Renewable Energy, LLC — a joint venture among SunChase Power and MAP Renewable Energy affiliates — has minority ownership of the projects, and conceptualized and originally developed the solar plans.

The Solar Foundation’s 2019 Solar Job Census reported 3,352 solar jobs in Louisiana, 2,535 of which were solar installation jobs — a 21 percent increase from 2018. According to the Census, 1,313 of the total jobs were located in the New Orleans/Metairie-Kenner region of the state alone. The state ranked 24th nationally for solar jobs.

“Our team is pleased to work with Entergy New Orleans and all of our project partners to bring cost-effective renewable energy to Louisiana residents for years to come,” said Hy Martin, Chief Development Officer of DESRI in the press release.  “We’re proud of the team and partners that came together to start construction on this large set of solar projects that will bring jobs, tax revenue, and broader economic activity to local communities throughout the state.”

Entergy New Orleans is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, which supplies electricity to millions of utility customers in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas. The corporation employs around 13,600 according to its About Us page.

“Our generating portfolio is among the cleanest in the nation and these solar projects are part of our ongoing commitment to delivering clean, reliable, and safe energy,” said President and Chief Executive Officer of Entergy New Orleans David Ellis in the release. “These two new solar resources in combination with our portfolio will substantially increase the composition of energy supplied to our customers from renewable resources.” In Sept. 2020, Entergy New Orleans completed construction on Louisiana’s largest commercial rooftop solar facility–a 2.4 MW site.

Completion on the Louisiana projects is expected by mid-2021, according to the DESRI release, and the two sites are together anticipated to power upwards of 13,000 Louisiana homes per year. DESRI says that Entergy New Orleans “has entered into 20-year power purchase agreements with these facilities for the benefit of all customers.”

The press release also notes that the new solar projects will “further diversify Entergy New Orleans’ generation portfolio, which already sources over 50 percent of its energy from zero-carbon emitting resources and has achieved an emissions rate that is 50 percent below the national average.”

Co-Founder and Principal of SunChase Power LLC Heather Otten said in the release, “We are pleased to see the projects and DESRI reach this exciting milestone. This is a milestone which would not have been possible without the tremendous support of the landowners and the local communities.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), 180.74 megawatts (MW) of solar, the vast majority of which are categorized as utility installations, have been completed in 2020. That’s a huge increase from just 9.06 MWs that SEIA reports were installed in 2019 and enough to power more than 17,200 homes. The state is ranked 37 in solar, up from 42 in 2019 and there are currently 72 operating solar companies in the state. SEIA projects that Louisiana’s solar capacity will grow by over 640 MWs in the next five years.

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