Hinds County Board of Supervisors considering solar farm to increase its tax base and benefit residents

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Two weeks ago, a brief report surfaced concerning the possibility of a solar farm being developed in Hinds County. While the story itself was brief, it covered several Hinds County residents expressing opposition to the effort. The gist of their concern seems to have been about the impact of such a farm on the local environment and the natural habitat of the area. Very little else was reported.

In the following week and a half, however, additional information has surfaced regarding the possible solar farm. Among other things, seven landowners in the area of Bolton and Raymond have become convinced enough that they are willing to sell investors the necessary land on which to develop the farm. It, therefore, appears the next move is for local officials to approve the necessary zoning and permit, enabling the farm to be developed.

According to data provided and comments from county officials supporting the farm, Hinds County would stand to gain approximately $1 million annually in taxes during the first five years of the project’s operation. In order for that to happen, Apex Clean Energy, headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is the company seeking to locate and develop the farm in Hinds County, is proposing to immediately invest between $700 million and $1 billion in the project. 

The project would not require any financial assistance from the county nor require any expenditure for infrastructure updates or improvements. This is a noted improvement over several of the economic development projects recently promoted by Governor Tate Reeves and other state leaders. In those cases, the state legislature was required to appropriate millions of dollars in tax money in order to attract the developers to the state, along with tax-breaks and the idea of cheap, non-union laborers being available.

According to Apex’s proposal, the Hinds County solar farm would create hundreds of construction jobs and more than 50 permanent jobs for the operation of the farm. These would all be local jobs, adding to the economy of Hinds County. Apex has also been talking to and planning to partner with local educational institutions, including Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, in order to provide for the educational needs of its workers. In addition to that, it is proposing a program of community/citizen improvement grants for the people of Hinds County.

The proposed solar farm, which is slated for the Raymond/Bolton area is being planned to serve 95,000 homes in the Jackson, Clinton, Raymond, and Bolton area. That could potentially meet the needs of all of the current residents. Once it is up and running, it should provide substantial energy savings for its customers, most of whom are presently at the mercy of Entergy and Atmos Energy. 

An added bonus is that, unlike coal, gas, and other fossil fuels, Apex’s solar energy would not create air pollution or water pollution. It would be clean energy, aiding the battle against global warming. There would also be less concern about maintaining an ample energy supply and the fluctuating prices that go along with the supply problem experienced with the reliance on the fossil fuel industry.

Because of its experience, working with 30+ similar projects over the years, Apex indicates that it understands how to keep glare from the farm at a minimum and to guard against other such unforeseen misfortunes. If the promises hold true, county residents could be looking at a whole new energy ball game. 

On the other hand, county officials should not blindly accept all promises. They must exercise due diligence and ensure the promises are made in writing. They also must engage the Public Service Commission to ensure adequate and appropriate regulations and oversight.

If the Hinds County Board of Supervisors votes its approval when the matter is taken up next week, the residents could soon witness the development of the first solar farm in the area. In the case of that eventuality, the company would anticipate being operational by 2027, with many county residents saying good-bye to the prices and the problems associated with their traditional sources of energy.  

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Hinds County Board of Supervisors considering solar farm to increase its tax base and benefit residents

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
June 17, 2024