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Major $130 million energy project could transform Arkansas power grid — here's how

"The more of these batteries you get onto the grid, the more ability the grid has to be stable."

"The more of these batteries you get onto the grid, the more ability the grid has to be stable."

Photo Credit: SMT Energy

In electrifying news for Arkansas residents, solar energy developer SMT Energy announced a groundbreaking $130 million battery energy storage project in northwest Arkansas with 250 megawatts of capacity, according to Talk Business & Politics.

The company plans to start construction on the massive project in 2026 and expects it to come online the following year. Planned for southern Benton County, the battery storage system will make the grid more reliable as solar and wind energy production ramps up.

The energy project marks SMT Energy's first battery energy storage system in Arkansas, per TB&P and its most extensive in regional transmission organization Southwest Power Pool's network, which covers parts of Arkansas. 

In a meeting in December with the Benton County Planning Board, SMT Energy employees explained the importance of having backup battery systems to reduce blackouts like the ones imposed on many southern states during a record-breaking winter storm in February 2021, as TB&P reported

"In the event of scarcity, which means, 'Hey, there's not enough power to go around,' these batteries kind of act as a conduit to prevent these sorts of events from happening," John Switzer, co-founder of SMT Energy, told TB&P. "The more of these batteries you get onto the grid, the more ability the grid has to be stable."

Luckily, Arkansas' grid looks much more resilient thanks to three other battery systems already operating. As TB&P reported, two 6-megawatt systems came online in 2019 in part to serve the city of Fayetteville. 

In 2022, the Searcy Solar farm owned by Entergy Arkansas became operational, capable of storing 30 megawatts of power and marking the first in the state to have battery storage, per the Energy Information Administration.

Meghan Sever, senior communication strategist for Southwest Power Pool, told TB&P that SMT's battery energy system can provide four hours of stored power. During peak demand periods, the excess energy in the battery can bolster the grid and help lower electricity prices

SMT Energy operates 10 battery systems across the U.S. With another 900 megawatts of solar power scheduled to come online this year in Arkansas, according to the EIA, the company's — and Earth's — future looks bright. 

"We're very active in SPP," Switzer told TB&P. "Arkansas is an area where we would like to do more. We are right now in the middle of honing in on exactly where. We're actively working on other projects but not ready to go public with it just yet."

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