By Randy Bell

Solar Farm

With the fate of a proposed solar power farm near Raymond awaiting a vote by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher is making it clear he would oppose such a project in this city.

“I am a proponent of alternative fuels,” Fisher says, “but a solar farm inside the Clinton city limits is not feasible, due to the amount of acreage involved.”

He says the city doesn’t have a tract of land that’s large enough, and he’d be opposed to the sale of privately-owned property for a solar farm.

But, if a company was interested in a Clinton solar project, the mayor says the City would follow the usual process: “To bring the concept to Community Development for evaluation, then [to] the Planning and Zoning Board for a conditional use [permit request] and public comment, then to the [Board of Aldermen] for a vote, [the] same as any other project.”

Community Development Director Roy Edwards says the applicant could seek a conditional use for the property as a public/quasi-public facility, but no such request has been made.

“None are planned in Clinton,” Fisher says.

The Soul City Solar project near Raymond would be built by Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy on about 4,000 leased acres, with several solar panel arrays in separate enclosures and an overall footprint encompassing an additional 2,000 acres.  The solar farm would generate up to 396 megawatts of electricity delivered to the local power grid.

The project faces an uncertain future after the county’s Planning Commission declined to make a recommendation following a May 28 public hearing.  The final decision rests with the Board of Supervisors during its meeting June 17.  If the board approves the project, construction could get underway late next year, and the solar farm could be online by the end of 2027.

Raymond area residents who are concerned that the project could lead to environmental and health issues continue to oppose it.  John Bethea, who owns and manages a total of 700 acres of agricultural land between Edwards and Raymond, organized a public meeting at Clinton’s Quisenberry Library on June 1 as part of the effort to convince the supervisors to reject the solar farm.

“I’m not optimistic about that,” Bethea said after the meeting. “I think it’s possible,” calling it a battle worth fighting.  “I’m really optimistic about my ability to do my duty, and that’s what I’m doing,” he said.

While Entergy Mississippi has no plans to use the electricity Soul City Solar would generate, Entergy does have a power purchase agreement with Hinds Solar, LLC, which received Mississippi Public Service Commission approval last year to build a smaller project in northern Hinds County just outside the Clinton city limits in the Jimmy Williams Road area.  The subsidiary of Delaware-based D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments is leasing 2,300 acres for a 150 megawatt solar farm.  The company says the solar panels would occupy about 1,100 acres.  In its PSC testimony, Hinds Solar indicated that construction could begin in late 2025, and its agreement with Entergy calls for the solar farm to begin providing power by May of 2027.