Entergy Arkansas Seeks OK for 81-Megawatt Solar Power Plant


Entergy Arkansas Seeks OK for 81-Megawatt Solar Power Plant
An example of the solar panels used in a solar power plant proposed by Entergy Arkansas. (Entergy Arkansas)

Entergy Arkansas said Wednesday that it is seeking approval from the state Public Service Commission to build an 81-megawatt photovoltaic solar energy plant in Arkansas County.

The plant, which would cover nearly 500 acres, is expected to be connected to the utility's grid by mid-2019. It would be the state's largest solar power plant. Entergy Arkansas also plans a new substation to connect the the facility to the transmission system.

The company said the plant would be capable of generating enough energy to power about 13,000 homes.

More: Click here (PDF) to read Entergy Arkansas' filing with the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

"Our strategic goal is to modernize and enhance the reliability of the grid and improve the efficiency and environmental footprint of our generation resources," Hugh McDonald, Entergy Arkansas' president and CEO, said in a news release. "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."

McDonald said that both nuclear and solar provide emissions-free power and "a natural hedge for energy price fluctuations."

The company has entered into a 20-year fixed-price contract with NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which would build the plant and supply the power. 

In its filing with the PSC, Entergy Arkansas says NextEra expects to employ 200 to 300 workers to build the plant. It would like construction to begin next spring, with engineering, procurement and permitting taking place this year.

The project is designed to qualify for a 30 percent federal investment tax credit to offset construction costs. Entergy Arkansas is asking the PSC to issue a final order on the project by Sept. 30 so the plant will have time to qualify for the tax credit.

Entergy Arkansas does not yet have a price tag for the solar project. In its news release, the company said it plans to invest $2.4 billion from 2014 to 2017 in generation, transmission and distribution improvements to the state’s electrical infrastructure.

The company said it expects the solar plant to be staffed with two to three full-time employees and contribute $400,000 to $600,000 per year in property taxes. It expects that, during construction, tax contributions to the state will be about $8 million.

Glen Hooks, chapter director for the Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, said Entergy's plans heralds a "clean energy revolution" in Arkansas. He called the announcement of those plans "historic."

"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," Hooks said. "Today's announcement proves Arkansas is ready to get started as a renewable energy leader."