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Huge solar power plant could come to Port Allen, Entergy buying in

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PORT ALLEN - West Baton Rouge Parish could take the lead in going green. Port Allen has been chosen to house the largest solar power plant in the state. That is, if a state government agency has to give the thumbs up first.

Arizona-based company Eagle Solar would be developing the project. Entergy Louisiana announced Thursday they'll be taking advantage of it, which could change the way residents in the parish get their electricity.

“We've had meetings with several of these solar power facilities before,” said West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley ‘Pee Wee’ Berthelot.

Berthelot says he hasn't talked to the developers in months, but when he has in the past, he’s liked what they were presenting.

“What we like best about it is it didn't have an impact on schools, it didn't have an impact on the environment and it didn't have an impact on traffic,” he said.

The proposed 500-acre plant would be located on a current sugar cane field off of Rosedale Road in Port Allen. Because of this, Berthelot says the plant doesn't pose much risk. On the other side, he says, there’s also not too much permanent gain.

“As far as benefit for the parish, they don't have a lot of jobs that come with it,” said Berthelot.

Building the plant would create 350 temporary jobs. The number of permanent jobs needed is four. This does create, though, a temporary burst in tax revenue – developers say $6 million dollars worth in a 30-year span.

“It could add some pretty nice checks for not only our schools, but our parish and municipalities,” said Berthelot. “Our jail, we have a half-cent sales tax, we have a half-cent sales tax on our firemen... So all of those will see a little bump in their checks.”

Residents could also see a cheaper electricity bill. Entergy Louisiana would be buying power from the solar plant saving customers almost $30 million over 20 years.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission has to approve the project. A spokesperson says that could take anywhere from one to six months to happen. Developers are hoping commercial operation could begin in just under two years.

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