Entergy's Castleberry Rides Into the Sunset

Entergy's Castleberry Rides Into the Sunset
Kurt Castleberry retired last week. (Kerry Prichard)

Kurt Castleberry was calling Tuesday morning to talk about Entergy Arkansas’ new agreement to provide electric power from carbon-free sources to federal government operations in Arkansas, but he didn’t want to bury the lead.

“I wanted to let you know I’m retiring,” the electric utility’s chief resource executive said. “Tomorrow is my last day.”

Castleberry’s exit marks the end of a nearly 40-year run in different units of Entergy and its predecessor, Arkansas Power & Light, the 62-year-old Arkansas Tech University graduate said.

In the early 1980s, he started as an engineer, and over the decades Castleberry has served in customer service, transmission organization, substation maintenance, power marketing and finally resource planning, where there’s been a revolution in the power sources Entergy uses to make electricity — a stunning shift away from coal generation to natural gas, and recently a notable surge in solar generation.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said of his long career, mostly in his home state but also for Entergy units in Louisiana and Texas. “I’ve been blessed with way more than I deserve, and it’s been great to work with very smart, talented people. I have no regrets, no criticism. It’s all been good.”

He plans to spend time with his four grandchildren, to travel, play music in a band with his brothers, and get deeper into scuba diving. “I’m also aspiring to do some work, eventually, helping serve electric customers” via part-time consulting.

One of his last tasks on the job was working out details of a memorandum of understanding with the General Services Administration, which handles government accounts and procurement, trying to get the most bang for taxpayer dollars. “For example, Entergy provides power for Little Rock Air Force, the Pine Bluff Arsenal, federal prisons, the Clinton Library, the VA hospital and others,” Castleberry said.

The effort grows of work the utility has done meeting customers’ needs in sustainable power, he said, and a special tariff being formulated to provide the government with zero-carbon power will also be open to regular Entergy customers, Castleberry said.

The government reached out to Entergy, already one of the top 10 power providers for federal operations in the country, to meet the Biden administration’s aggressive sustainability objectives, Castleberry said. President Joe Biden announced the partnership at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt last month. Entergy had already been working with large commercial and industrial customers on their similar sustainability goals.

One federal goal is for at least half of its power from Entergy to be from carbon-free sources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since the sun doesn’t shine at night, meeting that obligation will require mixing in power generated from Entergy’s hydroelectric dams and from Arkansas Nuclear One in Russellville. “Nuclear power also emits no carbon,” Castleberry pointed out.

“There’s an opportunity here in Arkansas that’s unique, and that is to put together a tariff that would provide that service to not only all the federal government facilities, but also to any of our other customers who want to pursue that.” Entergy Arkansas will present that tariff proposal to Arkansas Public Service Commission regulators within weeks, Castleberry said.

“There will be a blend of renewable resources, and we’re adding more to our generation portfolio,” he said. “Those are predominantly going to be solar resources. And then the other parts of the blend will be nuclear resources and hydro resources. And both of those resources are clean as well; they have no emissions.”

Entergy has “a lot of new solar resources coming down the pike,” Castleberry added, augmenting solar farms that now produce about 2% of total generation.

“Our integrated resource plan calls for Entergy Arkansas to add over 4,000 megawatts of new renewable resources by 2030, and we’ll be well on the road to getting there.”