Electric utility Entergy Arkansas and NextEra Energy Resources LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc., plan to build a 100-megawatt solar energy facility in White County near Searcy. The companies announced the project Monday (March 18). Pending approval by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, it would be the largest utility-owned solar facility in the state and feature a battery for storing solar power.
This will be Entergy’s third large-scale solar project in Arkansas, and with a combined capacity of 281 megawatts of solar energy, they can power about 45,000 homes. The Searcy solar facility is expected to begin operating by 2021, and it will be designed and built by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources. It will be built on about 800 acres east of Eastline Road near Searcy, and Entergy Arkansas will purchase the facility when it’s completed.
The project is expected to be filed with the Arkansas Public Service Commission by mid-2019, said Kerri Case, senior communications specialist for Entergy Arkansas. A timeline for commission approval or when construction will start has yet to be set. Entergy Arkansas declined to disclose the project cost but noted the costs and benefits for customers will be in the filing. Customers are expected to see economic and environmental benefits as a result of the project, she said.
“As the largest solar provider and a leader in renewable energy in Arkansas, Entergy is proud to bring a third large-scale project to the state that will allow our customers to benefit from the economic and environmental advantages of renewable energy, while at the same time learning about the benefits of battery storage,” said Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas.
The Searcy project will include an array of lithium-ion batteries capable of storing up to 30 megawatt-hours of electricity. The stored energy is expected to be charged and discharged daily to maximize the value of solar energy. The city of Fayetteville, Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power Inc. recently broke ground on a 10-megawatt solar facility in Fayetteville that will include 24 megawatt-hours of battery storage. The $23 million system is expected to be completed in late summer 2019.
Entergy Arkansas has been purchasing 81 megawatts of solar energy from NextEra Energy Resources at a solar facility near Stuttgart. Entergy Arkansas also will purchase another 100 megawatts of solar energy from NextEra Energy Resource’ Chicot Solar project at Lake Village when the plant starts operating in 2020. The construction of the Stuttgart Solar Energy Center created nearly 200 jobs, and Chicot Solar is expected to employ a similar number of workers. Combined, the projects are expected to generate $900,000 annually in property taxes.
Also, Entergy Arkansas is seeking additional renewable energy projects through a request for proposals.
“Our customers want to see solar in our resource portfolio, and we are listening and responding,” Landreaux said. “We want all of our customers to have the benefit of solar energy, and we also want to help individual customers meet their renewable energy goals. In addition to adding solar to our generation mix, we’ve also received approval of a Solar Energy tariff from the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which will give our customers the option of purchasing solar power to help meet their renewable energy objectives. It’s really an exciting time as we look to meeting the future energy needs of our customers.”
Entergy Arkansas and NextEra Energy Resource will host a public open house from 5 to 7 p.m. April 2 in Cone Chapel at Harding University’s American Heritage Center at 915 E. Market St. in Searcy. Attendees of the open house can learn more about the project.
Entergy Arkansas, a subsidiary of Entergy Corp., provides electricity to nearly 700,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy owns power plans with nearly 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including almost 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power. Entergy has more than 2.8 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.