Arkansas 100MW solar project with 30MWh battery storage gets approval

Cermonial switch-on for the 81MW Stuttgart solar farm by Entergy Arkansas and project partner NextEra Resources in 2018. Image: Entergy Arkansas.

Arkansas, currently ranked 31st among US states for solar deployment, will get a solar-plus-storage plant with 100MW of photovoltaic generation and 10MW / 30MWh of battery storage after regulator Arkansas Public Service Commission approved the project.

Entergy Arkansas, the local subsidiary of utility company Entergy which also operates in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and serves around 2.9 million customers, said yesterday that the Commission has approved the Searcy Solar project in White County. Entergy Arkansas last year contracted NextEra Resources to build the plant, also working with the electricity supply subsidiary of power plant owner and operator NextEra Energy on two other plants in the central US state.

According to the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Arkansas ranked 31st among US states for installed solar capacity with only around 220MW in place as of December 2019, while the battery portion of the project is thought to be among the first grid-scale batteries in the state. As Entergy Arkansas announced NextEra as the winning respondent for a Request for Proposals (RFP) to build the plant in March last year, utility CEO and president Laura Landraux said it looked forward to using Searcy Solar for “learning about the benefits of battery storage”.

"Large-scale solar facilities provide the most cost-effective solar power for all customers, keeping rates low while delivering the best value for renewables in Arkansas," Landreaux said in a statement yesterday. 

It would equal for solar capacity the nearby Chilcot Solar Energy Center on which Entergy together with Nextera Energy began construction in early December 2019. The next biggest project, also an Entergy-Nextera facility is the 81MW Stuttgart solar farm completed in 2018. However, while Entergy Arkansa said in a press release that it will be the largest utility-owned solar project in the state, sister site PV Tech reported earlier this month that developer Lightsource BP has a deal in place to finance, build, own and operate a 132MWdc solar farm, also in White County, with power to be sold to utility company Conway Corp.

Entergy Arkansas’ Searcy Solar solar-plus-storage project is scheduled for completion in 2021, with the co-located large-scale lithium-ion battery storage system expected to undergo a daily charging and discharging cycle. As well as benefitting the local environment through reducing emissions, it will also bring about US$700,000 a year in property taxes to the area. 

"This large solar project provides a much-needed economic benefit to Searcy and White County. It will provide construction-related jobs and a long-term, low-cost renewable resource," local Senator Jonathan Dismang said, with the plant expected to create around 200 temporary construction jobs as well as a couple of permanent roles once completed. 

"This large solar facility will be a very effective economic development tool as we work to attract new employers and retain our existing businesses. Many corporations have renewable energy and sustainability objectives. This facility, combined with Entergy's other large solar facilities in Arkansas, will help us strengthen and grow the state's economy," Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. 

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