A month after a federal judge approved a settlement calling for Entergy Arkansas to retire three older power plants in the state and expand clean power generation, the utility is making progress toward a key provision.
To end litigation brought by the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association, the company agreed to use more solar and wind energy, reaching a minimum of 800 megawatts by 2028. Kurt Castleberry, director of resource planning and market operations for Entergy Arkansas, says five projects are in different stages of development that will total 561 megawatts.
Three have been approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission while two are pending, he said. The company has also issued a request for proposals, or RFP, for a sixth plant, which would be the biggest yet, capable of producing 300 megawatts.
“So, we’re way down the path of meeting that 800-megawatt goal. This RFP that we just made an announcement that we’re going to be issuing, seeking proposals from bidders, will certainly add to that,” Castleberry said. “It all works together and it’s a very good settlement.”
The latest plant will either be owned and operated by Entergy Arkansas or by an outside contractor through a power purchase agreement.
Arkansas Sierra Club Director Glen Hooks says the developments are very encouraging.
“A state that just a few years ago really had no utility-scale solar to speak of now has got double-digits worth of them and, by far, this is the biggest one,” Hooks said. “I’m excited to see them really quickly after the settlement with the Sierra Club was signed, really quickly acting on that and sending out the request for proposals or at least the notice for a request for proposals. It’s going to mean great things.”
The settlement, which was approved by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on March 11, calls for the company to shut down two coal fired plants and a natural gas plant. The White Bluff plant in Jefferson County is to cease operations by the end of 2028 and the Independence plant in Independence County by the end of 2030. Both are 1,800-megawatt facilities. The Lake Catherine natural gas plant is to be shut down by the end of 2027.
“They’re ahead of schedule. I’m excited for what Entergy is doing. If anything, I hope that this heralds that they’re going to be building more renewable energy,” Hooks said. But he also expressed disappointment that Entergy Arkansas is not making a complete shift toward clean energy, with some new natural gas plants being planned.
Castleberry defended the action, saying it’s important for the company to have a diverse supply of energy sources.
“You don’t want all your generators to burn natural gas or to be solar facilities or be wind facilities or whatever technology or whatever fuel. You want a good mix of both so you’re not exposed to a risk by being too dependent on one technology or one particular fuel,” Castleberry said.
He also reaffirmed that Entergy Arkansas committed to a goal of having net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.