Construction on the state’s largest utility-scale solar energy farm has begun in Southeast Arkansas.
The work, which is being completed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, will be located on 825 acres near Lake Chicot. The expected 11-month build out will end with a solar farm that is larger than the Stuttgart Solar Energy Center, which is the state’s current largest universal solar energy project online. It was built in 2018.
The construction at Lake Village is part of a solar boom happening in southeastern Arkansas. Ashley County is already home to a small, 1 Megawatt farm that powers approximately 135 residences in the Ashley-Chicot Electric Cooperative’s service area. Its solar array has 3,888 panels.
Much larger projects are planned for the Snyder and Crossett areas. The Crossett project, which will have an estimated 33,000 solar panels, is supposed to generate 100-megawatts of power to approximately 18,300 customers within the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation’s member service areas.
Entergy Arkansas has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Chicot Solar Energy Center, which will have approximately 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels with a projected generation capacity of 100 megawatts The NextEra Energy subsidiary that is building the solar farm will own and operate it.
“This project will bring good jobs, tax benefits and affordable, renewable energy to the state for decades to come,” said John Ketchum, president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources. “We are pleased to continue to work with our partners at Entergy Arkansas to bring economic, renewable energy to customers and introduce another universal solar project of this scale in Arkansas.”
The project is expected to generate approximately 150 construction jobs, and a company spokesman said that, “From labor and materials, to housing, health care and construction - a wide variety of local businesses will benefit from the influx of economic activity.”
In addition to the initial local infusion of cash that comes with construction, Arkansas’ secretary of commerce said solar development can also serve the state’s long-term goals for economic expansion.
“The availability of cost-effective renewable energy resources provides an excellent economic development tool as we work to attract and retain businesses to Arkansas. The construction of this utility-scale solar project will employ a number of individuals and will spur economic activity during construction,” Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce Mike Preston said. “Low electricity rates are a significant benefit to economic development in Arkansas, and the solar facility in Chicot County will be an excellent addition to the state’s electric generation resources.”
Officials with the project said that the Chicot Solar Energy Center is expected to generate nearly $7 million in additional revenue for Chicot County, with much of that funding going to help Chicot County Public Schools.