Aypa Power plans $440M solar farm in rural section of Jeff Davis, Calcasieu parishes

Published 7:06 am Saturday, June 8, 2024

A Texas based renewable energy developer is proposing to build a $440 million solar farm spanning across a rural section of Jeff Davis and Calcasieu parishes.

Aypa Power plans to build a 375 megawatt photovoltaic electricity generation facility near Topsy in the northwest corner of Jeff Davis Parish and the northeast corner of Calcasieu Parish, according to Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development Director Creed Romano.

The Cajun Crescent Energy Center, as the project has been named, will consist of nearly 2,000 acres of existing pine tree plantations across the two neighboring parishes. The land is being leased from American Sulphur, which operates the pine plantation.

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About 400 acres of the proposed project would be located in Topsy on the northwest edge of Jeff Davis Parish representing a $57 million capital investment in the parish, Romano said.

The project site would be at least 500 feet from the closest residence and surrounded by a vegetative buffer, according to Forrest Forster, vice president of development at Aypa Power.

People will not be able to see it from the road, Forster said.

“You really won’t know it’s there,” he said. “It’s a solar facility so it really doesn’t make noise and we are not burning anything or producing any new emissions, so it is relatively quiet and out-of-sight.”

Kim Wallett, senior manager of business incentives for Advantous Consulting, said the project represents a huge investment in the parish that will generate additional tax revenue.

Jeff Davis Parish is currently collecting about $1,300 annually on the 400 acres. That is expected to increase a hundredfold when the project goes into operation, she said.

The more immediate tax impact, if the project moves forward, will be the local sales tax, Wallett said.

The project is expected to generate $87 million in new tax revenue for Calcasieu and Jeff Davis parishes, as well as the state, over a 30-year projected lifespan of the project. The money could be used to support local schools, roads and other infrastructure.

“The capital that will be deployed here will have the local sales tax component that will come directly to the various jurisdictions that collect taxes here,” she said.

Estimated sales tax during construction is $1.6 million for 18 months. Property tax will also increase once operations begin, Wallett said.

Indirect impacts will come from having more workers in the area, spending more money in the area. Nearly 300 temporary construction jobs would be created during peak project construction.

Police Juror Byron Buller, who represents the Topsy area, said the project is good news for such a rural area.

“This will really help the Topsy area by giving money that will help with fire protection, roads and draining,” Buller said. “God knows we need it and I think it will be a big plus for the area.”

Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury President Steve Eastman is excited about the project, but wants to ensure it will be good for the parish.

“We want good business in the parish, but we want good business to help the parish,” Eastman said. ”Even though this is a rural area we still have schools, we still have roads, we still have fire departments. We have all those infrastructures that we need to provide, so we want good corporate citizens in the parish. We just need to see what y’all are going to do for us, then we can do for y’all.”

Romano said Aypa Power is dedicated to the project.

“Forrest (Forster) and his team are experts in their respective fields and from my interactions with them, I can attest that they have invested not only a substantial amount of capital into this project, but also an equivalent amount of time and planning,” Romano said. “Their commitment ensures that the project will be executed correctly, that Aypa will act as a responsible corporate citizen and community members and that no corners are cut.”

The project is being funded by Blackstone, which is a large institutional investor.

“The mission of Blackstone is to deploy capital and infrastructure,” Forster said. “We are the primary vehicle that Blackstone uses to deploy money in the new energy space and as an investor they want to put the money to work and stay in it for the long haul.”

Forster said Aypa Power is committed to a long-term success of the project and have been working on the project before introducing it to the Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury this week. The company will develop, build, own and operate the project.

“We’ve been working for a long time behind-the-scenes getting site control, working with Entergy to connect to the (electric) grid and environmental studies with coordination through the Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana Department of Wildlife,” Forster said.

The company is currently awaiting local and state permitting and Industrial Tax Exempt Program (ITEP) approval to begin construction. Construction is expected to begin next year and is expected to begin operating by late 2026.