A West Baton Rouge Parish solar farm capable of supplying thousands of homes with power was plugged into the capital region's electrical grid as it began operating this week.

Construction crews for months have planted nearly 200,000 solar panels in constructing Capital Region Solar, a nearly 600-acre facility built on a former sugarcane field near Port Allen. The farm generates 50 megawatts of energy, which is the equivalent daily demands to power 9,600 homes, and is now stitched into the power grid for Entergy customers across Louisiana.

Its completion is part of a broader effort by Entergy to create more renewable options in the state, Entergy Louisiana CEO and President Phillip May said in a statement announcing the solar farm was online.

“Capital Region Solar is the latest addition to what we envision to be a growing portfolio of clean-energy resources serving our customers,” May said. “We are committed to delivering clean, reliable and affordable energy to our communities, and this project helps us do just that.”

An similar, 20 megawatt, power plant at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Site in New Orleans is also under construction and is expected to be completed by year's end.

Entergy has increasingly looked to solar power projects following a significant drop in panels prices in the past decade. The utility company has also seen increased energy demands for its more than 1 million customers in recent years and seeks to add up to 300 megawatts of solar resources by 2023.

Roughly 25% of power Entergy customers receive comes from carbon-free sources, which also includes nuclear, hydroelectric and other sources.

Solar panels at the West Baton Rouge farm face the eastern sky in the morning and track the sun's path as they rotate throughout the day, which allows them to capture 30% more energy than stationary panels, according to Depcom Power, the Arizona-based company that oversaw the project's engineering and construction.

Entergy Louisiana is buying power the farm generates under a 20-year agreement with Helios Infrastructure, a joint venture between Ohio-based finance and insurance firm Nationwide and Washington D.C.-based solar firm Sol Systems.

“This landmark project for Louisiana sets the bar for the triple bottom line benefits of sustainable infrastructure,” said Jessica Robbins, Sol Systems’ structured finance senior director.

Construction costs for the solar 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 Entergy.

Capital Region Solar will add about $6.4 million in tax revenue in the next 30 years, and the project created some construction 350 jobs, according to project planners. Four full-time employees will also be stationed at the site.


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