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Arkansas governor commences new solar facility

Posted on May 31, 2018

STUTTGART (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is ushering in a $100 million solar-power generation facility in eastern Arkansas.

Hutchinson joined local leaders, Entergy Arkansas CEO Rick Riley and NextEra Energy Resources CEO Armando Pimentel on Tuesday for the commissioning ceremony of the Stuttgart Solar Energy Center, Arkansas Business reported .

The 475-acre (192-hectare) site near Almyra consists of 350,000 photovoltaic panels and has an 81-megawatt capacity, enough to power 13,000 homes.

The ceremony is the start of a 20-year power purchase agreement between Entergy and NextEra. Entergy is the state's largest investor-owned electric utility, with about 700,000 customers. Florida-based NextEra is national publicly traded wind and solar generation group.

"If you're going to recruit investment in the United States and you want to compete, you better have sources of clean energy," Hutchinson said, adding that having a diverse clean energy supply is "a great talking point" in recruiting industry to the state.

A NextEra subsidiary will own and operate the solar farm. The Arkansas Public Service Commission won't say how much Entergy will pay for the power, but said it will be lower than the "system-average cost" for all of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the organization that bundles many utility companies' facilities into a single system.

"Normally a utility invests its own money and gets a rate of return on that," said Ted Thomas, commission chairman. "But a 2015 law allows Entergy to make earnings based on its contract."

Entergy will make less because they're not the owner and have less risk, Thomas said. He added that the facility "wouldn't be sitting here" if NextEra didn't make money.

The two companies also plan to create a larger, 100-megawatt solar facility in southeastern Arkansas' Chicot County.