by Jessica Thompson
Two Arkansas utilities are developing solar energy facilities featuring an onsite battery for energy storage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving Arkansans money.
Ozarks Electric Cooperative (OEC), in a trilateral agreement with Today’s Power, Inc. (TPI) and the city of Fayetteville, broke ground in March on two solar power systems with a combined 12-megawatts of solar generation and a total of 24-megawatt hours of energy storage. Concurrently, Entergy Arkansas, in partnership with NextEra, announced plans in March to build a 100-megawatt solar energy facility near Searcy that will be capable of storing up to 30-megawatt hours of electricity.
Ozarks Electric Cooperative joins forces with Today’s Power Inc., on Fayetteville’s Energy Action Plan
“Ozarks Electric Cooperative is the first utility in the Mid-South to lead the charge on energy storage in partnership with the City of Fayetteville, who has accomplished 72 percent of their renewable energy goals with this project,” TPI spokesperson Jennah Denney says, adding that TPI is currently deploying the only energy storage system in the Mid-South.
Kris Williams, director of Energy Services at Ozarks Electric Cooperative, says the project is expected to be completed in late June of 2019.
Located at the east and west wastewater treatment facilities in Fayetteville and spanning a total of 70 acres, each system will utilize an onsite battery charged through solar panels during the day and offloaded during peak evening hours.
“Batteries with their increasing capacities and decreasing prices take the intermittency out of renewable energy,” Denney says. “Batteries also enable us to continue using green solar energy into the night, long after the sun has set.”
Williams says the batteries are each about the size of a school bus and will be kept in structures separate from the solar panels to ensure the appropriate environmental conditions to preserve the life of the batteries.
The facilities are a facet of Fayetteville’s Energy Action Plan, set in motion in 2018 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are a step forward from the OEC’s one-megawatt, 4,080-panel solar array located in Springdale. Battery usage was considered for the facility, known as the Ozarks One, but was never implemented.
“Ozarks Electric approached the City of Fayetteville with an opportunity to help the city meet their renewable goals while deploying a new technology that would help keep their rates low and save their members money by reducing the utility’s demand,” Denney says.
Currently, OEC members have the option of purchasing solar panels to receive a credit on their bill each month.
Entergy Arkansas, NextEra Energy Resource Continue Moving Toward Renewable Energy
Meanwhile, Entergy Arkansas said in a press release that its 100-megawatt facility is expected to be in service by 2021, if approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
The facility will be designed and built by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resource on approximately 800 acres east of EastLine Road in Searcy and will be purchased by Entergy Arkansas.
“As the largest solar provider and a leader in renewable energy in 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,” says Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas.
The news of the facility came four months after Entergy Arkansas announced an agreement with advocacy organizations opposing the use of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy. The organizations alleged that Entergy Arkansas violated the Clean Air Act while the company maintains it has always complied with regulations.
Under the agreement, Entergy Arkansas consented to pursue approval of 800 megawatts of renewable-generating sources with at least 400 megawatts brought to regulators no later than the end of 2022 and the remainder no later than the end of 2027.
U.S. Trends in Energy Storage Continue to Rise
Though Arkansas has lagged behind the United States., as a whole, in efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions (a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed that greenhouse gas emissions decreased in the United States by more than 13 percent but increased in Arkansas by nearly 4 percent through 2016), these recent developments offer evidence that Arkansans are following suit on the energy storage trend.
The trend, according to research, is quickly accelerating.
The Edison Electric Institute, the association representing all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, shared in a 2018 report that battery storage capacity quadrupled between 2013 and 2017, making it the fastest growing energy storage technology today.
Global energy and renewable research group Wood Mackenzie reported in March that the market for energy storage deployments is expected to double from 2018 to 2019 and nearly triple in the following two years. By 2024, it is expected to be a $4.5 billion market.