NAS Meridian flips the switch on solar energy farm

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Wayne Henson, left, retired CEO for EMEPA, John Kliem, Executive Director of the Department of Navy's Resilient Energy Program Office, Capt. Brian Horstman, Commanding Officer of NAS Meridian, Matt Kisber, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch, Brandon Presley, Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District and Doug Perry, Tennessee Valley Authority's vice president of commercial energy solutions, flip the make-shift switch for solar panels at NAS Meridian Tuesday.

NAS Meridian flips the switch on solar energy farm

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Capt. Brian Horstman speaks prior to flipping the switch to the solar panels at NAS Meridian Tuesday.

With just a flip of a switch, Naval Air Station Meridian celebrated the completion of a 6-megawatt solar farm on the base Tuesday morning.

The 38-acre farm, which consists of about 51,000 solar panels, will produce zero carbon emissions.  

The project is made possible through a partnership with the Department of the Navy, the Tennessee Valley Authority, East Mississippi Electric Power Association and the Silicon Ranch.  

Silicon Ranch will own and operate the project, with the first two phases supplying power to the TVA. The third and largest phase will provide energy to Mississippi Power. 

Under normal circumstances, the generated energy will flow from NAS Meridian to the EMEPA grid, which serves homes and businesses throughout Winston, Kemper, Lauderdale and Clarke counties and in six other neighboring counties. NAS Meridian is EMEPA's biggest industrial customer.

NAS Meridian flips the switch on solar energy farm

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Wayne Henson, retired CEO for EMEPA, speaks during the unveiling of solar panels at NAS Meridian Tuesday.

Capt. Brian Horstman, commanding officer at NAS Meridian, said the ranch will not only serve as a back up energy source for the base, it will allow the base to  support the community by sending some of the energy produced to its neighbors.

“If this base wants to be successful in moving forward in the future and the local community wants to be successful, we've got to figure out a way we can to do that together,” he said.

Once the ranch is functioning, it could stabilize the local grid and supply energy to 15,000 homes regularly, Horstman said.  

"Everybody wins out of this deal,” he said.

Wayne Henson, retired CEO of EMEPA, said it was a four-year process to make the ranch a reality.  

“It's going to do a lot of good here," Henson said. "It will replace 80 percent of the capacity of NAS Meridian's electric system when it's operating.” 

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said he's seen solar farms become more popular across the state, changing peoples' views of solar energy. 

"We want to see more of these projects, not less," Presley said.

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