Entergy's Kurt Castleberry Notes Big Arrays Bring Lower Burn on Costs

Entergy's Kurt Castleberry Notes Big Arrays Bring Lower Burn on Costs
Kurt Castleberry Director of Resource Planning for Entergy Arkansas (Kerry Prichard)
A Hot Springs native, Kurt Castleberry has worked for Entergy Corp. since 1983, holding various roles in account management, substation management, distribution and transmission performance, wholesale power marketing and resource planning.
Castleberry has a bachelor’s degree in general engineering from Arkansas Tech University and a master’s in international business from Webster University. He has also completed additional studies at several universities.
While Castleberry was a student at Arkansas Tech in Russellville, Arkansas Power & Light was completing Arkansas Nuclear One just a few miles away.

Could you give us a quick recap of Entergy Arkansas’ solar power projects now in operation or on the horizon?

Entergy Arkansas has been powering the Natural State since 1913, and we are committed to Arkansas’ growth for the next century by providing customers the latest advancements in power generation, transmission and distribution at an affordable cost.

Our legacy of bringing solar solutions to our customers started in 2015, when we enabled the first large-scale solar installation in Arkansas (81 MW) at Stuttgart. Today, Entergy Arkansas’ renewable portfolio boasts five large-scale solar facilities that are operating, under construction or pending approval. We have a long-term agreement for a 100-MW solar facility at Chicot and a 100-MW solar facility at Searcy. Our solar facilities at Walnut Bend (100 MW) and West Memphis (180 MW) are pending approval and will provide low-cost, reliable and sustainable energy to our customers and bring significant economic benefits to Marianna, Lee and Crittenden counties.

We also are taking steps to add more renewable generation. In April, we posted a request for proposal inviting bids for up to 300 MW of renewable generation resources (solar and wind). The RFP seeks bids for long-term purchase agreements (like Stuttgart and Chicot) and constructed resources we would own. Overall, Entergy Arkansas has 861 MW of renewable generation in operation or on the horizon.

Entergy Arkansas has used various models to offer solar power, including owning the generation plants or buying the power they produce. What would you say is the determining factor?

It’s about what makes sense for our customers. We use a comprehensive, competitive bidding process with third-party oversight to identify resources. We carefully evaluate cost but also reliability and delivery risks.

Is wind power a viable renewable resource for Entergy Arkansas?

Arkansas is not as windy as states west of us like Oklahoma; however, wind technology continues to improve, and wind developers may build in Arkansas. If wind facilities can demonstrate that they can provide reliable low-cost electricity, we will consider them.

Entergy has focused on large-scale renewable generation, and its solar plants have been getting larger. Can you tell our readers more about the basic economics?

We look at the economics from the perspective of 715,000-plus customers, with cost and the amount of electricity a solar facility can produce being key considerations. We recognize a customer may install a subscale solar system, but our focus is ensuring that purchases of any excess energy produced by that system are not forced onto our other customers at costs higher than our more economic facilities. Simply, large-scale solar facilities have a lower installed cost per kilowatt of capacity and produce more electricity than smaller ones — factors that translate into lower costs for customers.