Entergy Arkansas, the state’s largest electric utility, is bounding ahead with plans for renewable energy generation, revealing a request for at least 300 megawatts of renewable generation projects to supplement its electrical supply by 2026.
Last week, the Little Rock subsidiary of Entergy Corp. of New Orleans announced it would accept proposals, and the utility said it is looking to issue the formalized request for proposals as early as next month. It expects projects to “provide cost-effective energy supply, fuel diversity and other benefits,” the company said.
“The request is expected to seek wind and solar resources located in either the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or Southwest Power Pool areas,” Entergy spokeswoman Kacee Kirschvink responded in reply to questions from Arkansas Business.
The RFP, part of a settlement with the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association that was finalized last month, committed Entergy Arkansas to propose at least 400MW of clean energy by the end of next year.
“That 300MW of solar, wind and storage is a pretty huge RFP for renewable energy in our state,” said Glen Hooks, chapter director of the Sierra Club of Arkansas. Bidders could be registered by early July.
Entergy was already by far the state’s largest solar energy producer. Its Stuttgart Solar Energy Center near Almyra brought 81 megawatts of renewable energy online in 2018, and its Chicot Solar Energy Center near Lake Village started operation in September 2000, delivering 100 megawatts of sun power. It has two other 100-megawatt solar fields on tap: Searcy Solar, to be completed this year in White County, which will have 10 megawatts of battery storage; and Walnut Bend Solar, expected to begin operating next year in Lee County, which is putting sun panels over 900 acres.
Another announced project, West Memphis Solar, will put a 180-megawatt solar field along Interstate 40 in Crittenden County, with completion set for 2023. In that case, Entergy will purchase power through an agreement with NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Florida. The Walnut Bend project is being built by Invenergy LLC of Chicago, which will sell the array to Entergy after completion.
Entergy’s settlement with the Sierra Club and the NPCA, approved last month by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, also requires Entergy to close its 285-MW Lake Catherine natural gas-fired plant by 2027, the 1,639-MW White Bluff coal plant by 2028, and its 1,657-MW Independence coal plant by 2030.
“The settlement also requires 800MW of new wind, solar, or storage by 2027, 400MW of which must be lined up by the end of 2022,” Hooks said.
“Our settlement avoids $2 billion in upgrades for polluting fossil fuel power plants and shifts those investments into affordable, reliable, and clean renewable energy for Arkansans,” Hooks added in a statement. “Entergy’s long-range energy plan is due to Arkansas regulators later this year. Entergy’s final plan should focus on expanding renewable energy investments while avoiding the financial uncertainty and environmental problems associated with building new fracked gas power plants. Sierra Club will continue pushing Entergy and other Arkansas utilities to transition toward clean energy and away from dirty fossil fuels.”
Entergy plans to gain the renewable capacity by commissioning partners to build, own and then transfer generator projects, or self-build and operate them with Entergy agreeing to take the power through power purchase agreements of 10 to 20 years, preferably 15 years or less. The minimum generation capacity for any one proposal would be 50 megawatts, and all work would require completion by Oct. 31, 2025.