PORT BARRE, La. (KLFY) — Much of the farmland along LA-741 in Port Barre will soon be transformed into solar farms, benefitting both the parish and those who live in it.

Bill Rodier, CEO of St. Landry Economic Development, said, “The new project that’s just been approved this month is ultimately called “St. Landry solar” it’s actually a subdivision of NextEra energy. That’s a 1,600-acre facility that’s located on the eastern side of St. Landry Parish.”

The 1,600-acre project is possible thanks to the available farmland NextEra leased from residents. Sara Cassidy from NextEra said the company searched extensively for land that fit their criteria.

“First thing is solar resource,” Cassidy said. “We need a location that provides the greatest amount of solar energy. Another thing that’s important is existing transmission existing transmission infrastructure, that way we can build up our project and it can connect to the electrical grid. And suitable land, we also look for an area that doesn’t have any environmental constraints, that’s big.”

With the new construction coming, Parish President Jessie Bellard said residents and the parish as a whole are benefitting greatly from the facility.

“Number one, the landowners and farmers who are in that area felt they had a good deal. For the Parish on the other hand, we have a deal with them,” Bellard said. “The land we’re speaking of is farmland, the same acreage is turned into what we call commercial property now. It’s more money than we ever would have received with the property as it’s sat right now.”

Rodier said alternative energy is becoming more important across the country, so it’s important that these deals happen now rather than later.

“Alternative energy is here to stay,” Rodier said. “This is an oil and gas area, so it won’t happen over night, but these things are becoming more and more and more pronounced, we even have more inquiries in the shoot right now. We’re looking at ways we can meet the nations needs and alternative energy is just somethings that’s at our doorstep.”

Construction on the facility is expected to start at the end of summer.