Lightsource bp has successfully closed on a $327 million financing package and mobilised construction on the 313-megawatt dc (250-megawatt ac) Driver Solar project near Osceola in Mississippi County, Arkansas. Lightsource bp completed development, permitted and financed the project and will construct the facility under a build-transfer agreement with Entergy Arkansas announced last year. Upon completion, at 313 MW Driver Solar will be the largest solar farm in Entergy Arkansas’ portfolio and the largest in Arkansas, generating enough energy to power more than 50,000 homes.
Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, said Driver Solar results from hard work and a strong partnership between Lightsource bp and Entergy Arkansas.
“One of our key commitments to customers is to help them find economic solutions to meet their sustainability goals,” she said. “Driver Solar plays a big role in providing savings to all customers and supporting businesses like U. S. Steel as they continue to advance their own clean energy future. These partnerships are helping to drive incredible growth in our state and will benefit our communities for decades to come.”
Helping build sustainable, made-in-America steel
Companies across America are looking to do business in states positioned to deliver affordable, reliable and clean energy to help them meet emissions reduction goals. Located adjacent to both U. S. Steel’s Big River Steel facility and their recently announced $3 billion expansion, the solar project will help the steel company produce advanced sustainable steel products for their customers. Entergy Arkansas has a long-standing relationship with U. S. Steel, an important growth customer for the utility and the state.
“This project shows that strong partnerships bring strong results for customers, communities and the environment. Once completed, the energy generated will be used throughout the facility, including the production of our verdeX® steel, which is produced with fewer emissions and with up to 90 percent recycled material,” said Daniel R. Brown, Senior Vice President Advanced Technology Steelmaking and Chief Operating Officer for Big River Steel. “U. S. Steel is pleased to collaborate with partners in Mississippi County to find sustainable solutions that are good for people and the planet.”
Supported by world-class finance partners
Over the last four years, the Lightsource bp team has raised over $3.7 billion in financing for projects in ten states across the U.S. with multiple world-class financing partners. The following lenders provided debt for the Driver Solar project, with the balance of equity requirements supported by Lightsource bp. Once constructed, ownership of the project will transfer to Entergy Arkansas under the build-transfer agreement.
- HSBC Bank USA, National Association (HSBC Bank USA, N.A.), part of HSBC Group, one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations, serving customers through wealth and personal banking, commercial banking, private banking, and global banking and markets segments. HSBC acted as the Mandated Lead Arranger.
- BNP Paribas, the European Union’s leading bank and key player in international banking. It operates in 65 countries and has nearly 190,000 employees. The Group has key positions in its three main fields of activity: Commercial, Personal Banking & Services; Investment & Protection Services; and Corporate & Institutional Banking. BNP Paribas has implemented a Corporate Social Responsibility approach in all its activities, enabling it to contribute to the construction of a sustainable future while ensuring the Group’s performance and stability.
- Societe Generale – one of the leading European financial services groups. Based on a diversified and integrated banking model, the Group combines financial strength and proven expertise in innovation with a strategy of sustainable growth.
- Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) – a member of SMBC Group, a top-tier global financial group headquartered in Tokyo. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Inc. (SMFG) is the holding company of SMBC Group.
Bringing environmental and economic benefits to the local community
“Partnerships such as these enable us to achieve our shared goals for a sustainable and cost-effective energy future,” said Kevin Smith, CEO of the Americas for Lightsource bp. “Working together, we’re materially benefiting the environment as well as Arkansas’ economy – delivering affordable and clean energy that America demands and needs.”
In 2021, Lightsource bp acquired the Driver Solar project which was under development from Acadian Renewable Energy, LLC, a joint venture among affiliates of SunChase Power and Eolian, who initiated the project’s development in 2016.
“SunChase and Eolian initiated development of Driver Solar to provide utility-scale, non-polluting electricity to Mississippi County, Arkansas accelerating the decarbonisation of the energy supply in the largest steel-producing county in the United States,” stated Aaron Zubaty, CEO of Eolian.
In addition to the local economic value that Driver Solar is bringing to Mississippi County through its benefits to the steel mill and its expansion, the solar project will:
- Create approximately 400 construction jobs, utilising the local workforce and subcontractors
- Provide an estimated $1.3 million dollar boost to Mississippi County in property taxes annually over the life of the project
- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 380,000 metric tons every year, the equivalent of emissions from more than 82,000 fuel-burning cars
- Promote biological diversity and sustainability by hosting two Monarch butterfly habitat areas of more than 70 acres
- Increase diversity in the local electrical grid, which encourages grid resiliency.
Construction has started, with commercial operation expected by late 2024. Moss Construction was selected by Lightsource bp as their Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) Contractor for the project. It will install over 650,000 solar panels manufactured by Arizona-based First Solar and smart solar trackers from New Mexico-based Array Technologies.
“We are pleased to see Driver Solar, and Lightsource bp reach this significant milestone,” added SunChase Power Co-Founder and Principal David Groberg. “Thanks to the tremendous support from landowners and the local community, Northeast Arkansas will be home to a reliable source of cost-effective, renewable energy.”
Image source: Courtesy of Lightsource bp
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