Solar farms planned for Panola County

Published 8:34 am Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Panola County will have two solar farms – now called ranches in the industry – designed as carbon offset projects as a result of a partnership between Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association and Clearloop, a cleantech startup recently acquired by Silicon Ranch.

The partnership, announced nationally on Tuesday, will help expand access to clean energy by focusing corporate offset investments on the construction of nearly 10 million watts of new solar.

The solar projects will be located on the corner of Hwy. 6W and Tubbs Rd., and on a tract of land known as Dugger Farms on I-55 across the interstate from Blaur, in the building formerly housing Batesville Casket Company.

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“Panola County, Mississippi is a friendly, diverse, 35,000-strong community. It is equally divided by Interstate 55 with the Mississippi Delta to the east and the Appalachian Foothills to the west. We consistently pull talent from Ole Miss, only 15-minutes away. Due to an aggressive and comprehensive PreK-12 Workforce Plan, we’ve experienced exciting economic trends. We keep our arms around our existing businesses and industry, and together, we focus on the future,” said Joe Azar, Director of Economic Development for Panola County through the Panola Partnership office.

“This partnership with Clearloop is going to benefit Panola County and its residents for years to come in a plethora of ways that I can’t wait to watch unfold. It will not only create new opportunities for our skilled workforce and entrepreneurial pipeline, but having this local source of renewable energy will shine a light on our community’s passion for innovation and excitement for future growth,” he said.

TVEPA’s partnership with Clearloop expands access to locally generated renewable energy across the county for the first time ever while maintaining a cost-effective, stable price that TVEPA’s members have come to expect. The goal for these projects is to fund nearly 10 million watts by the end of this year in order to break ground in 2023 and have a brand-new live project by 2024. These projects are expected to help power approximately 2,000 homes in the Appalachian Foothills and Batesville, also  considered a Mississippi Delta community because of the city’s proximity to the area.

“We’ve been providing electricity to our community for more than eighty-three years. Everything we do comes down to providing TVEPA members with safe, reliable, competitively-priced electricity. These solar ranches in Panola County will help us do that well into the future by diversifying our energy mix while supporting investment in the local economy,” said Brad Robison, CEO of TVEPA. “Normally, when we think of solar, we think of it in terms of energy production, but through this process, we have come to better appreciate the environmental and health impacts this project will have on the place that we call home. The economic development opportunities this will open up for our community and us is exciting, and we can’t wait to get started.”

These two solar ranches will not only reclaim 565 million pounds of carbon but also help more effectively balance the grid across the U.S. with renewable power, generate clean energy construction jobs, and create an investment in infrastructure, resulting in meaningful tax infusion in the community. By seeking outside investment from companies with a shared commitment to help clean up the grid while supporting local communities, Clearloop is pioneering a novel path for funding new projects in a mutually beneficial way for investors and communities.

“We created Clearloop for companies of all sizes to tackle their carbon footprint by expanding access to clean energy right here at home,” said Clearloop co-founder and CEO Laura Zapata. “This work would not be possible without the partnership of communities where the dollar invested in clean infrastructure can go further as an economic development tool. That’s why we’re so grateful to Brad Robison and his team at TVEPA, as well as Joe Azar and his economic development team at the Panola Partnership, for helping us usher in this investment. We’re excited for companies to reach their ESG goals by investing in this welcoming Mississippi community.”

Azar said some have asked, “Why solar fields? Simple, because our existing industry needs Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that are generated by a green energy source to meet their sustainability goals of the future. This sends a clear message to their corporate offices that Panolians are true partners in issues that are important to them. This lifts Panola County on the corporate radar of reinvestment into innovation and technology for our local plants. This type of growth keeps our industries relevant and our jobs secure.”

Clearloop’s emissionality-based approach helps direct corporate investments to the most carbon-intense grids while also identifying communities where the dollar invested in new infrastructure serves as the catalyst for economic development and growth.

Given the increasing onus on both public and private companies to measure and report on carbon impact, Clearloop’s novel approach to funding domestic solar projects in areas most in need of clean energy and economic growth gives organizations with ambitious ESG commitments the added confidence in the impact of their investment.