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Entergy Arkansas has agreed with NextEra Energy Resources LLC to build a 100-megawatt solar energy facility near Searcy in White County, the two companies said Monday.

The project, which needs approval from the Arkansas Public Service Commission, will be the largest utility-owned solar facility in Arkansas and the first to feature a battery for storing solar power.

The commission has approved other renewable energy projects for Entergy Arkansas, said Donna Gray, executive director of the commission's general staff.

This will be Entergy's third large-scale solar project in Arkansas and would allow the company to offer Entergy Arkansas customers 281 megawatts of solar energy, or enough to power about 45,000 homes.

The White County project, which is expected to be in service by 2021, will be designed and built by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, and, upon completion, will be purchased by Entergy Arkansas. The emissions-free, renewable energy facility will be built on about 800 acres east of Eastline Road or at Exit 44 off U.S. 67 near Searcy.

Entergy Arkansas is the largest provider of solar energy in the state, said Laura Landreaux, chief executive officer of Entergy Arkansas.

"Entergy is proud to bring a third large-scale solar project to the state that will allow our customers to benefit from the economic and environmental advantages of renewable energy, while at the same time learning about the benefits of battery storage," Landreaux said.

Entergy Arkansas currently buys 81 megawatts of solar energy from NextEra Energy Resources from a solar facility near Stuttgart.

The company also will purchase another 100 megawatts of solar energy from NextEra Energy Resources' Chicot Solar project at Lake Village when the plant becomes operational in 2020.

NextEra Energy Resources is a subsidiary of publicly traded NextEra Energy Inc.

The construction phase of the Stuttgart Solar Energy Center created about 200 construction jobs, and Chicot Solar is expected to employ a similar number of workers.

Combined, the projects are estimated to generate $900,000 per year in property taxes.

Solar energy and other renewable energy sources are competitive to residential and commercial customers compared with other sources of power, said Kerri Case, an Entergy spokesman.

"That's why [solar energy] ended up in our portfolio," Case said. "We keep a diverse portfolio."

Entergy Arkansas customers like to see solar power in the company's portfolio, Landreaux said.

"We want all of our customers to have the benefit of solar energy," Landreaux said. "We also want to help individual customers meet their renewable energy goals."

In addition to adding solar to its generation mix, Entergy Arkansas also received approval of a solar energy tariff from the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which will give customers the option of purchasing solar power to help meet their renewable energy objectives, Landreaux said.

Entergy didn't disclose the amount of the investment for the Searcy project because it is taking bids on another major solar project in Arkansas, Case said.

"That is not something we're able to disclose right now," Case said. "We have other [requests for proposals] out right now so this is confidential business information."

The company has a request for proposals for up to another 200 megawatts of power for a solar facility in Arkansas, Case said.

Entergy Arkansas, a subsidiary of publicly traded Entergy Corp., has about 700,000 customers in 63 Arkansas counties.

Entergy Arkansas and NextEra Energy Resources will hold a public open house to discuss the project on April 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. in Cone Chapel at Harding University's American Heritage Center in Searcy.

Business on 03/19/2019

Print Headline: Solar energy project set near Searcy


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