By VICTOR SKINNER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Louisiana continues to shift away from coal-fired power generation to renewable sources that can be intermittent during peak use times.
Cleco Power and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments LLC announced a plan in August to build a 240-megawatt solar plant on the site of a former coal-fired plant Cleco retired last year, enough to power about 45,000 homes.
Cleco expects the $250 million Dolet Hills Solar Project to begin providing power in 2025 through the existing grid connection, which previously supplied 650 megawatts from the former Mansfield lignite plant.
“This solar project is another step forward in Cleco’s journey to becoming Louisiana’s leading clean energy company,” Bill Fontenot, CEO of Cleco Corporate Holdings, said in the news release. “This project continues our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint while affordably and reliably serving our customers.”
The change is expected to boost Cleco’s reliance on renewable sources, which comprised only 2% of the company’s power in 2021, compared to 55% generated from natural gas.
The August announcement follows an agreement between Shaw and Southwestern Electric Power Co. to buy power from Shaw’s 72.5 megawatt solar farm in Caddo Parish that is scheduled to come online in late 2024, The Associated Press reports.
In total, Shaw’s Louisiana portfolio will increase to a total of nearly 700 megawatts in construction and contracted “clean power” with the two projects.
The solar project in DeSoto Parish is part of what Mr. Fontenot calls “a renewed focus on sustainability and the establishment of Environmental, Social and Governance goals to help preserve our natural environment.”
“To protect the environment, we plan to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by incorporating renewable energy resources into our generating fleet, as we replace coal-fired generation units retired after serving their useful life,” he wrote on the company’s website. “Our target is to sustainably reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent by 2030 with aspirations of net-zero emissions by 2050.”
The retirement of the Cleco coal plant in Mansfield now leaves only two coal plants in the state: the Entergy-owned Plant Nelson in Westlake and the Big Cajun 2 plant in New Roads that’s co-owned by Entergy and Cleco.
Entergy, meanwhile, is also investing heavily in solar and other renewable energies with 21 projects in service or development for Louisiana as of July 2022.
“Over the next three years, we plan to more than triple our existing renewable resources,” according to the company’s website. “To meet customer demand for clean energy capacity, we see the potential for up to 17 gigawatts of renewable energy generation in our portfolio by 2031.”
Entergy’s plans include 90 megawatts of solar projects expected to come online in 2022, 475 megawatts of solar projects pending in the regulatory approval process expected for 2024, and 2,100 megawatts of solar and wind projects for 2025 or 2026 currently awaiting requests for proposals.