Entergy Arkansas, the state's largest electric utility, planted its solar flag in extreme southeast Arkansas on Monday, breaking ground on a 100-megawatt sun array near Lake Village with its solar partner, NextEra Energy Resources of Florida.
Once built, a little less than a year from now, the plant will be the state's largest solar installation.
NextEra, of Juno Beach, built and operates the state's largest current sun field, the 81-megawatt Stuttgart Solar project near Almyra in Arkansas County. Likewise, the Chicot Solar Energy Center will be built and operated by NextEra, which will sell the power to Entergy under a 20-year purchase agreement.
Bryan Garner, NextEra's director of communications, told Arkansas Business that the "approximate capital investment" in the project is $130 million.
NextEra also plans to build Entergy's next major solar project, a 100-megawatt project near Searcy that is still awaiting approval from the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which oversees the investor-owned utility's regulation. Unlike the other two projects, Entergy would own the Searcy array through a build-to-own transfer agreement. In short, according to Entergy spokeswoman Kerri Jackson Case, Entergy Arkansas will end up owning the sun power station, a first for the company.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who stopped by Blue Sail Coffee in downtown Little Rock Monday morning as Case and new Entergy Arkansas communications chief Kacee Kirschvink were discussing the Chicot project, praised large-scale solar development and the partnership between Entergy and NextEra. "Utility-scale solar keeps electric rates low, and the clean, renewable energy it provides can be a catalyst for economic growth," the governor said in a statement. "This project is great for southeast Arkansas."
The array will cover about 825 acres with more than a third of a million photovoltaic panels — 350,000 of them — and will be completed in about 11 months, Entergy and NextEra said in a news release.
The center, once operational, will produce enough electricity to power more than 18,000 homes, the companies said.
Entergy Arkansas CEO Laura Landreaux said that large-scale solar "allows us to provide the benefits of a renewable energy to all our 700,000 customers at an economic price."
Up to 150 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with local businesses sharing peripheral benefits. Construction "will spur economic activity during construction," said Mike Preston, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce. "The solar facility in Chicot County will be an excellent addition to the state's electric generation resources."