If the state of Arkansas were a sentient being, it would appear to be a jealous one: jealous that all of its neighboring states are signing up for large-scale solar and increasing their installed capacities drastically. Never one to let its neighbors look down on it, Arkansas is catching the wave of development too, as yesterday Entergy announced plans to construct a 100 MW facility in White County, near Searcy.
Seeing Arkansas and 100 MW in the same sentence may have already led you in the direction of this conclusion, but yes, this will be tied for the largest solar project in the state once it’s completed, just edging out the existing Stuttgart solar project, which clocks in at 81 MW. Another 100 MW facility is being developed in Lake Village, Arkansas and is expected to come on-line in 2020.
Equally impressive, the project is planned to feature on-site battery storage, a first for any large solar project in the state, though the capacity of storage planned for the facility has not been announced.
Planned battery storage capacity and other project details like the brands of hardware (modules, inverters, racking, etc.) have not been made public because the project is so young in its development. In fact, the project is still awaiting approval from state regulators. Among the few details that have been released is that the project will be developed by a NextEra subsidiary, and will be bought by Entergy Arkansas upon its completion in 2021.
However if approved, this project will be colossal for the currently unimposing Arkansas solar market. According to SEIA, Arkansas currently has a total installed capacity of just under 140 MW, good for 32nd overall in the nation. Assuming completion, this project would not only vault Arkansas from 32nd to 27th in terms of total installed capacity, but, more importantly, it would nearly double the state’s total installed capacity. Add in that Lake Village project from earlier, and the state’s capacity with the two projects factored in is doubled easily, rising to 340 MW.
Hopefully this project is approved, as it could help to provide a serious jumpstart to future development in the state. It comes on the heels of the previously mentioned Stuttgart solar project, which went live in the beginning of 2018, and 100 MW Chicot Solar project in Lake Village. The state will not become a leader overnight, but those three projects provide a foundation for future large-scale development that cannot be ignored.
Even more important than this project being developed in Arkansas is Entergy’s involvement in it. Entergy plans to buy all three of the projects listed previously in some capacity, whether it be ownership of or a power purchase agreement, and the utility’s sudden solar development craze is about as unexpected as an egg-laying dog. The company has been historically slow, potentially the slowest of the southern utilities to embrace solar at any capacity, let alone a combined 281 MW.
Outside of a small portion of East Texas, Entergy operates in three states. Those states are Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, whose total installed capacities and capacity rankings are 140 MW and 32nd, 234 MW and 27th and 96 MW and 37th.
However with all this hope of a strong development future comes the somber reality we seem to be echoing with every project announcement: hold your horses for now, there’s a lot of the development process that stands between us now and future Southern solar success.