Upcoming Entergy Arkansas, Lightsource bp solar project to help produce ‘sustainable steel’

Entergy Arkansas

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. But key to the project is its adjacency U. S. Steel’s Big River Steel facility. Entergy is working closely with U. S. Steel Corporation to develop sustainable solutions to help them meet their objective of producing steel using renewable electricity.

“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.”

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. Lightsource bp has 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.

“This project with Entergy Arkansas and Lightsource bp illustrates the importance of partnerships,” said U. S. Steel Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer Richard Fruehauf. “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.”

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, 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.”

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.

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.

Entergy Arkansas is adding other renewable generation facilities in the coming years. Earlier this year, the company issued a request for proposals for 1,000 MW of wind and solar resources.

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