Huge solar project in southeast Calcasieu draws opposition from residents

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 7:30 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - One of Calcasieu’s largest landowners is proposing a solar project to generate electricity. Aurora Solar would lease about 3,400 acres from Sweetlake Land and Oil Company to develop, install and operate what would be called the Chalkley Solar Project.

It would be the largest project of its kind in Louisiana, harvesting the sun’s energy to provide electricity. About 2,400 acres would be used for solar modules that would create power carried to Entergy on a line that runs along Highway 14.

But the Calcasieu Planning and Zoning Board would have to grant a zoning exception, and some residents who live around the perimeter of the project have objections.

Michael Faulk worries about solar panels in a hurricane.

“It would be tragic to see this debris field end up in people’s homes. There was a portion of my parents’ roof that ended up three miles away from their house,” Faulk said.

And his son Landon questions the value to the community.

“We will get no direct benefit and half of the energy they produce will be sold out of state,” Landon said.

The sheer size of the project is one of Courtney Bowers’ concerns.

“The proposed plan, just to kind of put it in perspective for people, is going to be the size of 1,815 football fields. That is larger than the town of Lacassine, Hayes and it’s also larger than the town of Iowa even,” she said.

But Dr. John Denison, with Sweetlake Land and Oil Company, says the panels are highly wind resistant.

“It’s a very exciting project for Sweetlake. It’s going to encompass - take up 24, 2,500 acres of pasture land in southeast Calcasieu Parish. We’re very, very confident they will not have any issues on hurricanes,” Denison said.

And he says the project is great for the community.

“It’s one of our most exciting projects that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. It’s a project that we feel like is extremely beneficial to the community, for economic development, and we’re working on supplying renewable energy for our area,” Denison said.

Plus, he says it will create tremendous tax revenues for the parish.

The actual hearing by the zoning board will be at 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday evening. Here is the application for the zoning exception.

Unlike zoning changes, the board decides the issue, so it does not have to go before the police jury.

The opposition group has a Facebook page you can find HERE.

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