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PUC approves new Entergy Arkansas solar plan that could save C&I customers $60M

solar array Entergy Arkansas
Stuttgart SolarCredit: Entergy

Entergy Arkansas estimates the 61 customers across the state subscribed to the company’s Solar Energy Purchase Option – Option B will save $60 million over the next 18.5 years by purchasing power generated at the Stuttgart Solar Energy Center.

“This new solar energy program was conceived as a way to allow certain, tax-exempt customers who often have a very tight operating budget to help their bottom line but also benefit the environment, their community and local economic development,” said Michael Considine, vice president of customer service.

“With our program, customers do not have to assume the financial or operational risks of building or contracting through a third-party provider for their own solar facility,” Considine continued. “We take care of everything, and the customer can sit back and enjoy the savings worry-free. They also act as good neighbors, as this program does not shift embedded costs for the electric grid to non-solar Entergy Arkansas customers the way a third-party arrangement does. That benefits all Arkansans by allowing Entergy Arkansas to maintain some of the lowest electric rates in the country while working aggressively to expand existing business and recruit new business to the state.”

By participating in this utility-level arrangement, customers will save anywhere from 18 to 28 percent on their electricity usage while paying a more appropriate portion of maintenance for the grid all Arkansans use.

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In early July, interested and eligible parties applied for the solar energy tariff and were accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The tariff was awaiting approval from Arkansas Public Service Commission, which granted it Sept. 18. More than 125 entities – including nonprofits, churches, cities, school districts and water treatment centers – applied for the program, and approximately half remain on the waiting list for any future solar energy purchase options the Commission might authorize.

“We have an obligation to our students to provide the best education we can, and sometimes that comes down to basic math. Jessieville School District will save a little over $50,000 each year through the SEPO B program, which can be used in other ways to support our students – from better science labs to more field trips,” said Superintendent Melissa Speers. “We’re happy to subscribe to a renewable energy option that’s a good investment for the planet – and our children’s future.”

Half of the output of the 81-MW Stuttgart Solar project, brought online in 2018 and the first Entergy Arkansas solar facility, will be dedicated to select customers and the other half will go to the grid for all customer consumption. Over the course of its operational life it’s expected to inject $8 million in additional revenue to Arkansas County, with much of that funding going to public schools.

Richard Harris said, “As mayor of Russellville, I am excited about the opportunity to partner with Entergy on this innovative initiative. If approved by the city council, the city government of Russellville will see considerable cost savings because of the benefits from both nuclear and solar power generation.”

Besides Stuttgart, Entergy Arkansas has Chicot Solar and Searcy Solar, which will be online in late 2021. Combined with the recently announced Walnut Bend Solar Project, these projects will have a capacity of 381 megawatts.