Entergy Arkansas, the state’s largest electric utility, is planning one of the state’s largest solar power stations, Walnut Bend Solar, near Brinkley along Interstate 40 in Lee County.
The 100-megawatt power plant will be the investor-owned utility’s fourth solar generation source, and will bring about 200 construction jobs and two or three full time positions to Arkansas prairie, pending approval by the state Public Service Commission.
The project, to be designed and built by privately held Invenergy Renewables LLC of Chicago, will be among the state’s largest solar sources and will generate about $700,000 a year in property taxes for Lee County. The solar farm, featuring hundreds of thousands of panels over 900 acres south of the interstate and east of U.S. 49.
Construction is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2021, with the sun power reaching customers by the end of 2022.
“Entergy Arkansas is the solar leader in the Natural State,” Entergy Arkansas President and CEO Laura Landreaux said in a company statement. “Utility-scale solar generation is the future of economic solar power in Arkansas. Walnut Bend will be a valuable addition to our solar fleet, which, in turn, complements our diverse mix of generation sources that have been powering life in Arkansas for 107 years now.”
Walnut Bend will be the fourth solar generator for Entergy Arkansas, part of Entergy Corp. of New Orleans. The Arkansas utility, which serves 700,000 homes and businesses, dedicated 81-megawatt Stuttgart Solar in 2017, and a 100-megawatt array near Lake Village, Chicot Solar, is set to go online this fall. Another planned 100-megawatt facility, Searcy Solar, is under development. It is expected to be completed in 2021 and purchased by Entergy Arkansas after construction.
In total, the four solar resources will create 381 megawatts of power, enough to power about 61,000 homes, at a total investment of more than $300 million, the company said. Entergy expects customers to realize $170 million in benefits over the life of the facilities, according to a news release.
Preaching economies of scale, the company said large solar facilities are more efficient for customers than rooftop solar or smaller private projects. The massive solar farms provide more buzz per buck, the argument goes.
“Carefully managing our resources is how we keep rates relatively low in Arkansas, which is essential to the continued economic growth of our state,” Landreaux said.
The solar panels will feature bifacial solar panels, which use the sunny side and underside of panels. The bottom panels absorb sunlight reflected from the ground, increasing per-panel efficiency.