Entergy is nearing completion of its nearly 600-acre solar farm in West Baton Rouge Parish that, once completed, will be capable of powering thousands of homes, project planners announced Wednesday.

Nestled in a former sugar cane field west of Port Allen, the project will see 197,000 solar panels planted into the ground to create and supply power for the region and state. Project managers say they anticipate the farm will be completed in September.

The farm will generate 50 megawatts of energy, the equivalent daily demands to power 9,600 homes, and will be woven into the power grid for Entergy customers across Louisiana.

"We have estimated this project will provide economic benefits to our customers, such that the benefits of the project will outweigh its cost," said Jonathan Bourg, director of resource planning and market operations for Entergy.

The project is part of a broader effort to create more renewable energy options in Louisiana, company officials said. Currently, Entergy customers receive 25% of their power from carbon-free sources, which includes nuclear and hydroelectric and other sources.

The panels face the eastern sky in the morning and slowly rotate to track the sun's path throughout the day, giving them the ability to capture about 30% more energy than stationary panels, said Andy Nyce, the project manager for Depcom Power, the Arizona-based company overseeing the project's engineering and construction.

Entergy has increasingly looked to solar power projects after the cost of panels dropped significantly in the past decade. The utility company has also seen increased energy demands for its more than 1 million customers in recent years.

Construction costs for the West Baton Rouge farm were not disclosed, as company officials cited a confidentiality agreement. A similar solar farm in northwest Louisiana came at a roughly $78 million price tag.

The farm is expected to save Entergy Louisiana customers $29 million over 20 years, according to the company. Company officials also expect it will add about $6.4 million in tax revenue in the next 30 years.

The undertaking has created some 350 jobs, with an emphasis on hiring locals and U.S. military veterans, according to the utility. Once operational, four full-time employees will be stationed at the site.

Entergy is also eyeing a path to expand the use of solar farms and is asking the Louisiana Public Service Commission for support in creating an additional 250 megawatts of solar power in the state.

"This (West Baton Rouge farm) started with a request and proposal back in 2016," Bourg said. "And here we are today, a couple months away from seeing it provide power to our customers."


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad