81 MW solar project finally breaks ground in Arkansas

They say time moves slower in the South. If the timeline for 81 MW Stuttgart (Arkansas) Solar Energy Center is anything to judge by, “they” are right.

Two years after the NextEra Energy Resources and Entergy Arkansas received approval for the Stuttgart Solar Energy Center, the companies broke ground on the project yesterday. Even after yesterday’s groundbreaking, the center isn’t expected to be finished until January 2018. NextEra will own the project, while Entergy will purchase the energy under a 20-year agreement.

As pv magazine reported in 2015, the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) approved th 20-year contract in September of that year, and the project will be first large-scale solar project in the state. At the time, Entergy said the power purchased would reduce residential customer bills by $0.11 per month over the life of the project.

Even though the plant will reportedly only supply 0.8% of the power needs for the utility’s 700,000 customers, the utility has said it hopes the Stuttgart center will displace higher priced coal production in its service area.

Entergy, the Deep South’s other large monopoly utility (along with Southern Company), also doubles as the country’s second-largest nuclear-plant operator (behind Exelon), and the states in its service area have been well behind the rest of the South and the nation in deployment of large-scale solar. But it’s clear the company has now realized, as it has watched its neighbors embrace the solar revolution, that they, too, must add solar power to their portfolio or risk being left behind.

According to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, Arkansas has largely been left behind as solar created one out of every 50 jobs in the United States in 2016. It currently supports only 271 solar jobs, which ranks 47th in the nation.