Entergy Arkansas on Thursday received approval from the state Public Service Commission to build an 81-megawatt photovoltaic solar energy plant in Arkansas County.
The order, signed by PSC Chairman Ted Thomas and commissioners Elana Wills and Lamar Davis, will allow the company to build the state's largest solar power plant. Entergy has said the 500-acre operation would be capable of generating enough energy to power about 13,000 homes, and that it will save residential customers $25 million over 20 years.
More: Read the PSC's full 26-page order (PDF).
In the order, the PSC said the project would "provide for savings for retail customers as compared to other generation and power supply options" and that it was "necessary to supplement or replace the utility's existing generation sources."
In a statement, Entergy Arkansas President and CEO Hugh McDonald said the solar plant will enhance the position of the utility's power generation portfolio, already among the cleanest in the country.
"Emissions-free energy from the facility will also allow Entergy Arkansas to hedge the risk associated with fuel price fluctuations and potential environmental regulations in the future," McDonald said.
Entergy announced the plan in April. It's among a number of solar projects underway in Arkansas. Entergy said Thursday that construction could begin before the end of the year; it plans to connect the plant to its utility grid by mid-2019.
"Our strategic goal is to modernize and enhance the reliability of the grid and improve the efficiency and environmental footprint of our generation resources," McDonald said in April. "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."
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 an earlier filing with the PSC (PDF), Entergy said NextEra expected to employ 200 to 300 workers to build the plant.
The project is designed to qualify for a 30 percent federal investment tax credit to offset construction costs. Entergy asked 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.