Largest solar project in Arkansas to help meet U. S. Steel’s sustainability goals
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas Public Service Commission has approved the Entergy Arkansas Driver Solar Project, a new 250-megawatt AC (or 312 MW DC) renewable energy facility developed by Lightsource bp, which will be located on approximately 2,100 acres near Osceola in Mississippi County. Driver Solar will be the utility’s largest solar facility and the largest solar facility in Arkansas, capable of generating enough energy to power more than 40,000 homes.
“Driver Solar adds highly economic, renewable generation to our portfolio, further diversifying our energy mix in a way that meets our customers’ evolving expectations,” said Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas. “It is a key contribution toward business expansion in northeast Arkansas, and we are excited to be a part of it.”
She said, “We are listening to our customers as we develop and execute our generation strategy for the future. We are privileged to be able to work closely with U. S. Steel Corporation to develop sustainable solutions to help them meet their objective of producing steel using renewable electricity while simultaneously lowering rates over the long term for all 728,000-plus Entergy Arkansas customers.”
The Driver Solar site is located along Arkansas Highway 61 near Carson Lake Road and Arkansas Highway 198, just south of Osceola, and will be situated adjacent to both the U. S. Steel’s Big River Steel facility and the recently announced $3 billion expansion. The Driver Solar project was initiated and developed by Acadian Renewable Energy, LLC, a joint venture among affiliates of Sun Chase Power and Eolian. Lightsource acquired the project and completed development and permitting of the solar field and will build the facility under a build-transfer agreement with Entergy Arkansas. Driver Solar has an expected completion date in late 2024.
U. S. Steel Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer Richard Fruehauf said, “This project with Entergy Arkansas and Lightsource bp illustrates the importance of partnerships. Driver Solar not only helps us meet our robust sustainability goals, but it will also help us deliver sustainable steel solutions for our customers. The renewable energy generated will power the production of verdeXTM, our advanced sustainable steel product, which is composed of up to 90% recycled steel content, as well as other products produced at our Big River Works facility.”
Together with their joint venture partner bp, Lightsource bp has been delivering competitively priced, safe, and dependable, clean energy for businesses and communities in the United States and around the world since 2010. Lightsource bp was recently named world’s largest solar developer by Mercom Capital Partners.
In November 2021, Lightsource bp and bp announced a landmark procurement deal with U.S.-based First Solar Inc. for 5.4 gigawatts of First Solar modules. First Solar produces American-made solar modules at its fully vertically integrated manufacturing complex in Ohio. All 250 megawatts of the Driver Solar project will be generated using advanced, ultra-low carbon thin-film modules manufactured by First Solar. In addition to modules supplied by Tempe-based First Solar, the facility will be built with solar trackers manufactured by Albuquerque-based Array Technologies.
“The Driver Solar project is another demonstration of how solar can power our country’s industry with cost-competitive, clean, dependable electricity,” said Kevin Smith, Lightsource bp’s CEO of the Americas. “Arkansas’ largest solar project will help build American-made sustainable steel, as well as create hundreds of U.S. jobs for construction and across the supply chain.”
Landreaux said, “With their solar industry leadership and commitment to supporting domestic manufacturing, we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to work with Lightsource bp.”
Driver Solar is expected to provide between 350 and 400 jobs during the construction phase, utilizing the local workforce and subcontractors.
Upon completion, Entergy Arkansas plans to employ outside services for site maintenance, such as land management and vegetation control, operations, office rent, team payroll and other items likely to have a local impact. Local businesses such as restaurants and stores may also benefit indirectly from the infusion of construction workers and activity during this time, company officials said.
In addition, the property taxes associated with Entergy Arkansas’ ownership of the project are conservatively estimated to be an approximate average of $1.2 million for Mississippi County annually over the life of the project, or roughly $36 million in 30 years.
Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said, “Driver Solar enables U. S. Steel to grow its business in Arkansas, meet their sustainability goals, and further demonstrates how the State of Arkansas and Entergy Arkansas support companies that provide high-paying jobs grow in the state.”
Entergy Arkansas already operates one of the cleanest electric generation portfolios in the country. That generation is predominately emission-free due to significant amounts of nuclear, hydro, and solar generation in the portfolio. In addition to its solar-sourced power, Entergy Arkansas currently owns or operates two carbon-free nuclear generating units, which supply 60% of the company’s generating needs.
And its generation will be getting even cleaner over time. To meet customer demands and as described in the Integrated Resource Plan, Entergy Arkansas anticipates replacing a portion of our older natural-gas fired resources in coming years and all our coal-fired resources by 2030 with mainly renewable resources that will deliver needed emission-free electric generation to meet the load and energy requirements of our customers.
The Driver Solar project is another milestone in the modernization of the Entergy Arkansas power generation portfolio, helping meet customers’ needs for cleaner, more efficient, and diverse energy solutions. Beyond providing the benefits of emissions-free generation, the project will promote biological diversity and sustainability by hosting two Monarch butterfly habitat areas to exceed 70 acres.
Entergy Arkansas is adding other renewable generation facilities to serve its customers and communities with more clean energy in the coming years. Earlier this year, the company issued a request for proposals for 1,000 MW of wind and solar resources. In June 2022, Entergy Corporation discussed plans for up to 7 gigawatts of renewable resources by the end of 2025, and as much as 14 to 17 gigawatts of renewable resources by the end of 2031. Learn more about our renewable energy generation growth at entergy.com/renewable energy.