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Entergy solar project will be state’s largest

Facility to support U.S. Steel plants by Andrew Moreau | October 5, 2022 at 2:15 a.m.
Entergy logo.

Entergy Arkansas will build the state's largest solar facility south of Osceola to power manufacturing operations of U.S. Steel manufacturing plants in Mississippi County.

The solar complex will take up 2,100 acres and generate 250 megawatts of power, enough to light up more than 40,000 homes.

Entergy announced Tuesday that the plant – named Driver Solar – has received approval from the Arkansas Public Service Commission and should be operational by late 2024.

"Driver Solar adds highly economic, renewable generation to our portfolio, further diversifying our energy mix in a way that meets our customers' evolving expectations," Laura Landreaux, president and chief executive officer of Entergy Arkansas, said in a new release announcing the facility. "It is a key contribution toward business expansion in Northeast Arkansas, and we are excited to be a part of it."

LightSource bp of the United Kingdom will build the solar-energy structure on Ark. 61 near Carson Lake Road and Ark. 198. The London-based company is one of the largest solar developers in the world.

U.S. Steel announced in January that it would invest $3 billion to expand operations in Mississippi County with a high-tech steel mill that the company projected would create 900 jobs with an average pay of $100,000. The mill will be the largest capital investment project in Arkansas history and will be located next to the Big River Steel plant the company has been operating near Osceola since 2014.

The expansion is scheduled to be completed in late 2024 as well. "This project with Entergy Arkansas and Lightsource bp illustrates the importance of partnerships," Richard Fruehauf, U.S. Steel's chief strategy and sustainability officer, said in a statement. "Driver Solar not only helps us meet our robust sustainability goals, but it will also help us deliver sustainable steel solutions for our customers."

Driver Solar is expected to provide from 350 to 400 jobs during construction, with a focus on hiring local workers and subcontractors. Entergy also said the facility would magnify the economic impact on the area when it later hires contractors for site maintenance, land management, vegetation control, operations and payroll among other contributions.

Property taxes are estimated to reach at least an average of $1.2 million for Mississippi County annually over the life of the project -- about $36 million over 30 years.

Promoting business development in the area is an important aspect of the solar project, according to Arkansas Commerce Secretary Mike Preston. "Driver Solar enables U.S. Steel to grow its business in Arkansas, meet their sustainability goals, and further demonstrates how the state of Arkansas and Entergy Arkansas support companies that provide high-paying jobs grow in the state," Preston said.

Driver Solar is the latest move by Energy to modernize its generation fleet with emission-free renewable resources and reduce reliance on natural-gas and coal-fired resources.

Entergy Corp. has said it will develop up to 7 gigawatts of renewable resources by the end of 2025, and as much as 14 to 17 gigawatts of renewable resources by the end of 2031.

In Arkansas, the utility says customers will be served by 811 megawatts of solar power by 2024 with plans to bring more facilities online beyond that. The company has proposals under consideration to add another 1,500 megawatts by 2026.

Entergy now operates solar facilities in Searcy and Stuttgart and near Lake Village and Brinkley. A West Memphis plant also is scheduled to begin generating power in 2024,

The state's largest electric utility, a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., provides electricity to more than 728,000 Arkansas customers in all 75 counties.

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