Harvesting the power of the sun: New 2,000-acre solar farm in Beauregard to begin at end of 2023
Published 9:58 am Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Solar farms are cropping up across Louisiana as part of the plan to shift the state toward a clean, renewable and resilient power grid. At the end of this year, construction is scheduled to begin on the installation of solar panels on an approximately 2,000-acre site in Singer. These panels will absorb energy from the sun, generate an electric current and distribute energy via power lines.
Originally, the farm’s working name was Beauregard Solar, but that’s changed. The new name is Singer Solar, according to Sara Cassidy, a spokesperson for NextEra.
The acreage is located south, southeast of La.. 27 and due west of U.S. 171, according to Karl Kremser, NextEra project development director. A timber company owns the land that will be leased. Kremser said he couldn’t give the name of that company at this time.
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Mike Harper, Beauregard Parish Police Juror, District 3, says Singer Solar is a good thing for the parish. “It’s in an area that won’t affect farming. There will be no erosion. People aren’t living close by. It’s a company you won’t hear or smell located back in the woods and making money for the parish with land nobody is using.”
The site is in the district of Police Juror Wayne Reeves, and he said, “this is big for Singer.”
While Singer is not a city or village, Reeves puts the population of this rural community at around 2,000.
Harper also pointed out that unlike a timber company that has to wait around 20 years to see a return on its crop, the solar farm is a project that “will make returns for the parish every day the sun shines,” and harvesting won’t damage roads as timber harvesting sometimes does.
Singer Solar will contribute more than $26 million to the local economy through participation in the state’s PILOT program over about 35 years. PILOT is an acronym for Payment In Lieu Of Taxes. The land will be leased. The final amount is still under negotiation.
NextEra has also donated funds to local schools to provide resources to enhance STEM education.
NextEra officials said that 200 to 250 construction workers will install the project. Locals could be hired. When the project is finished, there will be two full-time employees, possibly security or other skill sets.
When it’s gone, Singer Solar won’t leave a mess behind and the land can be returned to agricultural use. A recent bill governs decommissioning regulations for utility-scale solar projects. NextEra will be required to pay permitting fees and purchase a bond payable to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources as a financial collateral in the event that the company abandons the project without restoring the land to its original condition.
“We’re committed to being a good neighbor,” Cassidy said, “bringing benefits, doing what we say we’re going to do.”
Ground-mounted solar projects are sited low to the ground and total acreage of a plan is an indicator of the energy that it will produce. Singer Solar will produce up to 200 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. Photo-voltic panels are constructed with non-reflective coatings and/or glass to absorb as much sunlight as possible, rather than reflect sunlight. Panels are made of materials typical of those found in electronic equipment. Equipment is non corrosive, encapsulated between two layers of plastic with a layer of tempered glass and a polymer sheet or industrial laminate.
NextEra executives could not release information about how the power will be used at this time. Kay Fox, Beauregard Electric, said its company is involved in clean renewables including solar and down the road, hydrogen – but not from this plant. Although Singer Solar won’t be powering homes that use Beauregard Electric, to put the scope of this plant in perspective, a single megawatt-hour can power the average home for 1.2 months.
While agricultural activities would be suspended during the life of the solar project, the project preserves the topsoil, allowing it to remain fallow.