Entergy Arkansas announced plans Wednesday to add the state’s largest solar power plant to Arkansas’ growing energy mix by the end of the decade – if approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
The state largest electric utility said that Arkansas County’s Grand Prairie will soon become home to an 81-megawatt photovoltaic solar energy generating facility, an emissions-free renewable energy facility to be connected to Entergy Arkansas’ transmission grid no later than mid-2019.
“For Entergy Arkansas, meeting the needs of our customers now and in years to come means embracing new technologies in our industry that make sense for our customers and for the communities we serve,” said Hugh McDonald, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas.
McDonald also added that Entergy Arkansas’ portfolio is already one of the cleanest in the country with 71% of the utility’s power generation coming from nuclear energy.
“Both nuclear and solar provide emissions-free power and a natural hedge for energy price fluctuations due to uncertain environmental regulations and natural gas price volatility,” he said.
The new solar project, to be known as Stuttgart Solar, will consist of an array of stationary solar panels covering nearly 500 acres and will be capable of generating enough clean energy to power approximately 13,000 homes. A new substation will be built in Arkansas County to interconnect the solar facility to Entergy Arkansas’ transmission system, company officials said.
McDonald said the Arkansas utility giant’s “strategic goal” continuing to upgrade the reliability and efficiency of the grid, including adding more environmentally-friendly sources of energy.
“This will place Arkansas in a position to grow by creating jobs through attracting new businesses and expanding existing ones, all while keeping our rates lower than the national and regional averages,” he said.
As part of the planning process for the project, Entergy Arkansas entered into a power purchase pact with an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, the developer of the solar facility and one of the country’s largest solar energy providers. NextEra will provide all of the energy and environmental attributes, including all renewable energy credits available from the project.
The agreement fixes the energy price for the 20-year term of the contract, which Entergy officials say will benefit Arkansas utility customers by providing $25 million in estimated savings on the terms of the deal.
During the construction phase, NextEra Energy Resources expects to employ some 200 to 300 workers and anticipates contributions of nearly $8 million to Arkansas tax coffers.
“We are proud to work with Entergy Arkansas to bring the state its largest solar power facility and help Arkansas bring much-needed jobs and economic benefits to families and businesses throughout Arkansas County,” said Mike O’Sullivan, senior vice president of development of NextEra Energy Resources.
In addition to this solar project, from 2014 to 2017, Entergy Arkansas plans to invest $2.4 billion on generation, transmission and distribution improvements to the state’s electrical infrastructure.
Entergy Arkansas is by far the state’s largest energy provider and generator, serving nearly 700,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy Arkansas, a subsidiary of New Orleans-based utility giant Entergy Corp., owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including nearly 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power, making it one of the nation’s leading nuclear generators.
ARKANSAS UTILITIES RAMPING UP SOLAR, WIND POWER PROJECTS AS EPA MANDATES LOOM
Entergy and other utility providers across the state have been increasingly diversifying their energy portfolios as the federal Environmental Protection Agency looks to shutter more of the nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants.
The EPA said it expects to issue final rules on the president’s so-called Clean Power Plan that will be available for public review and comment on June 1. The “brunt” of the EPA’s 1600-page 111(d) rule mandates a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2030 from 2005 levels.
The Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), which has been a vocal critic of the EPA’s plan, has also been rapidly diversifying its energy portfolio over the past six months.
In November, AECC announced an agreement with Kansas-based Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm to purchase wind energy for its Arkansas members. That contract was the first wind energy venture for AECC.
The agreement will provide energy to customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri through long-term power purchase agreements with AECC, AECI and Southwestern Electric Power Co., a unit of American Electric Power. The wind capacity purchased by AECC is part of about 470 watts of potential generation provided by the farm’s 294 wind turbines.
Later in January, AECC announced an agreement with a Kansas wind farm to purchase wind energy for its Arkansas customers. That deal will provide energy to customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri through long-term power purchase agreements with AECC, Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., and Southwestern Electric Power Company, a unit of American Electric Power. The wind capacity purchased by AECC is part of about 470 watts of potential generation provided by the farm’s 294 wind turbines.
The Kansas-based Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm — a four-county 66,000-acre site — is the largest, single-build wind farm in the history of the U.S. wind industry.
Then in February, an AECC subsidiary announced it had reached an exclusive agreement to sell commercial-grade solar photovoltaic units across its six-state distribution footprint. The deal involves TodayPower Inc. (TPI), a wholly owned subsidiary of AECI, and Minneapolis, Minn.-based tenKsolar Inc., which owns a proprietary technology to design, manufacture and market high-efficiency rooftop photovoltaic units.
In addition, the so-called “Clean Line” project has obtained regulatory approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to sell transmission service to customers in Arkansas and other states at negotiated rates.
That project is an electric transmission line project that will deliver up to 3,500 megawatts (MW) of wind power from the Oklahoma Panhandle region to communities in Arkansas, Tennessee and other states in the Mid-South and Southeast.
In addition, Clean Line has proposed an intermediate delivery converter station in Central Arkansas that would have the capacity to deliver up to 500 megawatts of power, but that has yet to receive regulatory approval.
Glen Hooks, chapter director for the Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement: “The clean energy revolution has now officially begun in The Natural State. As our first home-grown renewable energy project, this is a truly historic announcement. The Sierra Club congratulates both Stuttgart Solar, Entergy, and NextEra on this move and looks forward to welcoming Arkansas solar energy into our state’s power supply. The Sierra Club has long advocated for Arkansas to generate our own solar and wind energy here at home, just as our neighboring states have done for years. Today’s announcement proves Arkansas is ready to get started as a renewable energy leader.”