Entergy Arkansas executive Kurt Castleberry revealed to Whispers last week that the electric company has filed for regulatory approval of the state’s largest sun energy installation — by far.
The solar array, sited near Interstate 40 in West Memphis, will cover nearly a thousand acres and produce 180 megawatts of power, 80% more capacity than the state’s largest existing array, Entergy’s 100Mw Chicot Solar Energy Center near Lake Village.
The Chicot project, which went online in October, followed Entergy’s 81Mw Stuttgart Solar project, commissioned in 2018. Another Entergy power station under construction, the 100Mw Searcy Solar, is expected to be completed this year, and Entergy has laid the groundwork for a 100Mw project in Lee County near Brinkley, Walnut Bend Solar.
“On Friday we filed another solar resource with the Arkansas Public Service Commission called West Memphis Solar,” said Castleberry, Entergy Arkansas’ director of resource planning and market operations. “If it’s approved by the commission and stays on schedule, it should be online sometime in the latter part of 2023.”
The plant, like the Stuttgart, Chicot and Searcy projects, will be built by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Florida. NextEra owns the Stuttgart and Chicot plants, selling the power to Entergy under contract. But Entergy plans to buy the Searcy and West Memphis units after construction. The Walnut Bend generator is being designed and built by Invenergy Renewables LLC of Chicago and will also be acquired by Entergy.
Castleberry said once all the solar generators are online, about a tenth of Entergy’s resource mix will be solar. The utility is the state’s largest, serving more than 700,000 customers.
“Yes, the West Memphis project is a big one,” Castleberry said. “Searcy and Walnut Bend are 100 megawatts, so this is almost as big as both of those combined. “In our testimonies before the commission, we provide support demonstrating that these solar acquisitions are highly economic resources that will provide significant benefits for customers.”
In every renewable energy project, Entergy bases decisions on economics and risk, he said. “NextEra has had some very economic proposals, there’s no question about it. That’s why they’ve built more than one of our resources.”
Castleberry expects his company to seek out another renewable energy resource either this year or in early 2022.