JONESBORO — The Lake City City Council is pursuing hooking up to Entergy Arkansas’ solar energy system.
City officials have filed a letter of intent, expressing interest in receiving power from Entergy Arkansas’ Stuttgart farm, which covers about 500 acres and harvests power to use for electricity from the sun, said David Lewis, an Entergy senior communications specialist.
All nonprofits, churches and government entities that wanted to join the program had to do so by June 15, said Matt Faries, an Entergy customer service manager.
Mayor Jon Milligan said last week he’s required to turn in his application to try to get some of that power.
“We feel that renewable energy is crucial to our state’s future,” said Kacee Kirschvink, an Entergy communications manager.
Faries said that the company has received 167 letters of intent from individual entities that would like to join the move to solar energy.
Entergy Arkansas has controlled, for the most part, Arkansas’ power grid, which allows customers to receive electricity, since 1914, Lewis said.
Those 167 Arkansas customers make up 101 megawatts, Faries said. Kirschvink said that the company can offer 40.5 megawatts to those who qualify.
The rest of the Stuttgart plant’s 81 megawatts of energy will be dispersed among the remainder of Entergy’s customers, who did not qualify, in the roughly two-thirds of Arkansas that it covers, Kirschvink said.
“Yes, the expectation is that all of the capacity will be allocated, and many customers will be on the outside looking in,” Faries said.
Those who don’t make the first round will be added to a waitlist in anticipation of later opportunities for solar power, Kirschvink said.
A megawatt contains a million watts, a unit of measuring power, Faries said. In comparison, a typical lightbulb holds 60 watts.
“It flows from the solar panels on to the transmission grid on to the power grid that serves everybody, and we meter exactly how much goes onto the grid, and on the other end we meter exactly how much the customer takes off of the grid,” Lewis said about the method used to power Arkansans’ electricity with the sun.
The process works similarly to how fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear energies all make their way to the power grid that routes Arkansans’ power.
Milligan estimated that using Entergy solar energy will save the city between $10,000 to $15,000 a year.
The most appealing aspect of going with Entergy, rather than a different third-party company, was that the city does not have to give up any land for solar panels, Milligan said. He added that other companies have requested the city give up land to produce solar energy.
The Lake City council met on June 29 to get information from Milligan about the initiative.
“Oh, they were excited,” Milligan said about the council members’ enthusiasm toward the plan Entergy laid out.
Milligan said he wants to wait and see what Entergy does.
Kirschvink said that Entergy administrators are working to file a tariff with the state Public Service Commission that would reduce the rates for those specific customers including churches, nonprofits and government organizations.
“Everything we do has to be approved by the commission,” Kirschvink said.
The company views solar energy as an affordable option for Arkansans, although nuclear energy is the cheapest option, Kirschvink said.
After the company opens two additional plants, Kirschvink said she expects for Entergy to provide electricity for 45,000 customers using solar power. The others will be in Searcy and Chico County.