With a focus on renewable energy, particularly solar power, Arkansas is an ideal place to expand or relocate your business to achieve environmental goals. Entergy Arkansas has made significant investments in solar power, including two large-scale solar facilities in operation, one under construction, and two others on the way. As your company places a greater priority on sustainability, Entergy Arkansas is well-equipped with renewable resources to ensure your business is competitive in today’s eco-conscious marketplace.
“From the perspective of businesses, solar power provides a tremendous opportunity,” says Kurt Castleberry, Director of Resource Planning and Market Operations, Entergy Arkansas. “Many companies have sustainability initiatives, including achieving net-zero carbon by 2030 or 2035. Our solar facilities, along with Entergy Arkansas’ renewable energy portfolio, allow us to assist businesses in reaching their goals.”
Rising demand for renewable energy
Businesses of all shapes and sizes are focused on renewable energy now more than ever. In fact, companies are publicly announcing their sustainability goals, showcasing their dedication to the planet. For example, Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030, according to the company’s latest Sustainability Report. Amazon, which has four facilities in the state, is focused on being net-zero carbon by 2040 and is “on a path to powering our operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025.”
Showcasing this rising demand for renewables, Entergy Arkansas regularly receives Requests for Information from prospective business customers or site location consultants inquiring about renewable energy options. Many companies want to understand the electricity cost per kilowatt hour if they pursue 100 percent renewable energy for their operations.
“Businesses today are increasingly working toward satisfying their environmentally-minded customer bases,” says Joe Bailey, Senior Project Manager, Business & Economic Development, Entergy Arkansas. “That’s why Entergy Arkansas is committed to satisfying some of their sustainability goals through our diversified mix of renewable energy resources.”
Setting the stage for solar power
As the largest provider of solar power in Arkansas, Entergy Arkansas is making solar an integral part of the state’s diversified mix of power sources. Currently, we partner with NextEra Energy Resources for Stuttgart Solar, an 81-megawatt facility in Arkansas County, and Chicot Solar, a 100-megawatt facility near Lake Village. Coming online in 2021, Searcy Solar is a 100-megawatt facility in White County. Pending regulatory approval, Walnut Bend, on par with Searcy’s megawatt power, will be operational in 2022 and West Memphis will be the largest solar array in the state at 180 megawatts, with commercial operation expected to begin in 2023.
Innovative technology is one of the major advantages of large-scale solar projects. Searcy Solar features 10 megawatts of battery storage that can be discharged into the electric grid even when the sun is not shining. Walnut Bend uses a new technology called bifacial solar panels, with photovoltaic cells on both the top and bottom sides. The bottom photovoltaic cells capture sun reflected from the ground, increasing the amount of electricity generated per panel.
“The solar facilities we own can be updated as technology changes, such as advancements in inverter or battery storage technology,” Castleberry explains. “We can always make modifications over time to provide the most benefits to our customers. Every application is unique, but the technologies will be evaluated and used where they make the most economic sense.”
Solar facilities provide an array of economic development benefits in the communities in which they are built. For example, around 200 to 300 construction jobs are typically required to build just one facility. Once in operation, workers are needed to maintain and operate the facility, along with contract work in security, vegetation control, road maintenance and other necessary services. In addition to new jobs, the solar facilities pay significant property taxes that benefit the local and state economies.
Keeping businesses competitive
While sustainability is front and center, businesses are still competing in a profit-driven marketplace. Thanks to renewable energy technology costs decreasing in recent years, Entergy Arkansas is taking advantage of the extra savings for customers. The energy provider’s renewable energy tariff options provide customers with direct access to solar power. When signing up for a tariff, you’ll need to identify how many megawatts or kilowatts are required for your facility. Your business will then pay a subscription charge and receive credits for the amount of solar electricity produced.
“Business customers receive credits for the amount of solar electricity produced known as Renewable Energy Credits, which are essentially the currency to demonstrate a company is buying renewable power” Castleberry says. “In other words, RECs are evidence of a company’s sustainability.”
Prospective business customers looking to expand into Arkansas also have the option of building their own solar facilities. However, there is a huge cost difference between utility-scale solar facilities and the ones built by third parties. If a business customer expands into Arkansas and builds a solar facility, it will be in the range of 5 to 10 megawatts compared to around 100 megawatts for a utility-scale facility. “The difference in cost is enormous – about 40 percent,” Castleberry explains. “Energy Arkansas is able to pass these cost savings to our customers just by virtue that we build and offer renewable energy at a much more economical scale.”
Taking steps toward sustainability
There are myriad opportunities for businesses interested in supporting renewable energy growth in Arkansas. Many companies in the state have participated in our regulatory proceedings for the five solar facilities and signed letters of interest in support of “green” tariff options. For businesses across the state, access to solar power is essential as they work toward sustainability goals and take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Businesses in our state have a lot at stake to remain competitive in this world where eco-conscious customers are requiring the products and services they buy to be produced using renewables,” Castleberry said. “These businesses recognize the economic benefits of our large solar facilities and the value of a strong partnership working with Entergy Arkansas to help meet their needs.”