Entergy Arkansas customers in the utility’s solar energy program are expected to save $60 million over the next almost 19 years, according to a news release on Monday (Oct. 5).
The utility announced the projected savings for customers across the state who are participating in the Solar Energy Purchase Option – Option B program by purchasing power generated by the 81-megawatt Stuttgart Solar Energy Center.
“This new solar energy program was conceived as a way to allow certain, tax-exempt customers who often have a very tight operating budget to help their bottom line but also benefit the environment, their community and local economic development,” said Michael Considine, vice president of customer service. “With our program, customers do not have to assume the financial or operational risks of building or contracting through a third-party provider for their own solar facility. We take care of everything, and the customers can sit back and enjoy the savings worry-free.”
“They also act as good neighbors, as this program does not shift embedded costs for the electric grid to non-solar Entergy Arkansas customers the way a third-party arrangement does,” he added. “That benefits all Arkansans by allowing Entergy Arkansas to maintain some of the lowest electric rates in the country while working aggressively to expand existing business and recruit new business to the state.”
Customers who participate in the program can save between 18% and 28% on their electricity usage while paying “a more appropriate portion” of maintenance for the grid all Arkansans use, the release shows.
In early July, interested participants for the solar energy tariff started to be accepted to the program. On Sept. 18, the Arkansas Public Service Commission approved the tariff. More than 125 entities, including nonprofits, churches, cities, school districts and water treatment centers, applied for the program, and nearly half remain on a waiting list for any solar energy purchase options the commission might approve.
“We have an obligation to our students to provide the best education we can, and sometimes that comes down to basic math,” said Melissa Speers, superintendent of Jessieville School District, adding that the district is expected to save more than $50,000 annually through the program, “which can be used in other ways to support our students – from better science labs to more field trips. We’re happy to subscribe to a renewable energy option that’s a good investment for the planet – and our children’s future.”
Stuttgart Solar started operating in 2018 as Entergy Arkansas’ first solar facility. Half of the plant’s capacity (40.5 megawatts) will be dedicated to select customers, and the remainder will go to the grid for all customer consumption. The plant is expected to inject $8 million in additional revenue to Arkansas County throughout its life and much of that will go to public schools, the release shows.
“As mayor of Russellville, I am excited about the opportunity to partner with Entergy on this innovative initiative,” said Richard Harris. “If approved by the city council, the city government of Russellville will see considerable cost savings because of the benefits from both nuclear and solar power generation.”
Along with the Stuttgart plant, Entergy Arkansas has Chicot Solar and Searcy Solar, which will start operating in 2021. The utility recently announced the 100-megawatt Walnut Bend Solar Project as one of the largest solar plants in the state, and all of the Entergy Arkansas plants will have a combined capacity of 381 megawatts. They will provide enough power for 61,000 homes and are expected to save all customers nearly $200 million over the next 20 years.
Entergy Arkansas, a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., provides electricity to nearly 715,000 customers in 63 counties in the state.