Entergy Arkansas got a welcome ruling from regulators Tuesday when the Arkansas Public Service Commission granted the investor-owned utility’s application for a major 100-megawatt solar project near Searcy that would be the state’s largest utility solar farm.
The project, known as Searcy Solar, will also be the first utility array to feature battery storage, 10 megawatts’ worth.
With completion expected next year, the generation and storage combination will cover 800 acres in White County with solar panels, producing enough electricity to power 45,000 homes, according to the power company. It will also bring solar output for Entergy Arkansas, an arm of Entergy Corp. of New Orleans, to 281 total megawatts from three solar installations.
The previous two are Stuttgart Solar Energy Center in Arkansas County, which has been producing 81 megawatts of power since 2018, and Chicot Solar Energy Center, under construction near Lake Village, which will generate 100 megawatts.
Local officials and the state commerce secretary hailed the announcement as an economic boost.
“This large solar facility will be a very effective economic development tool as we work to attract new employers and retain our existing businesses,” said Mike Preston, the former Arkansas Economic Development Commission chief who now runs the new state Department of Commerce. He said he expected the solar farm to “help us strengthen and grow the state’s economy.”
The project, east of Eastline Road in Searcy, will generate 200 temporary construction jobs and two or three permanent positions, the utility said in a news release.
“It also will provide about $700,000 in annual property taxes as well as environmental benefits through emissions-free energy,” the release said.
“Entergy Arkansas is proud to be leading the charge in expanding solar power in our state, and we are committed to meeting our customers’ energy needs reliably, affordably and safely as we have done for over 100 years,” said Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas. “Large-scale solar facilities provide the most cost-effective solar power for all customers, keeping rates low while delivering the best value for renewables in Arkansas.”
State Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, praised the construction jobs and the “long-term, low-cost renewable resource.” The development also got kudos from Rep. Les Eaves, R-Searcy, and from White County Judge Michael Lincoln and Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne.
“Entergy’s large solar facility, coupled with the recent announcement from Conway Corporation, make White County a leader in renewable energy in Arkansas,” Lincoln said, referring to a recent announcement by Conway’s city utility that it’s developing a 132-megawatt solar station in White County in conjunction with Lightsource BP, a division of British Petroleum. Lightsource BP will finance, build and own the power field, selling energy to Conway Corp. under the fixed-rate power purchase agreement. “I am excited about the opportunities that these large solar facilities that generate low-cost renewable power will bring to the county and the state.”
Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne called the Entergy array “an economic shot in the arm for Searcy. This will make Searcy a leader in renewable energy in Arkansas.”