The solar panel that sat in front of the state building that houses the Arkansas Economic Development Commission has finally been turned on after sitting idle for over three years. It’s nice to see that they are finally hooked up, but you have to wonder if the cost of the panels is worth the savings to taxpayers.
According to Anne Laidlaw with the Arkansas Building Authority who manages the property at 900 W. Capitol, the panels cost a total of $552,251. Now that they are operational, Scott Hamilton from the AEDC estimates it will save between 3 percent to 7 percent on electricity.
“The percent of the ‘savings’ varies depending on the intensity of the sun and the building’s electrical load—the designers of the system have estimated that the panels could provide an average of 3-7% of the building’s average electrical needs overall—again this is extremely difficult to estimate—as the system is now online—we can begin to capture actual data over time,” said Hamilton.
So what does that means in terms of dollars? Well, Laidlaw tells me that the average electric bill for the property is currently $10,552. That means the half million dollar panels will save the state between $316 to $739 per month.
This adds up to an annual savings of $8,864 in a best case scenario and it could be as little as $3,798. This potential savings comes out to between 1.6% to 0.69% of the initial cost, meaning it could take the state between 62 years to 145 years to recoup the investment, and that of course does not calculate for maintenance costs.
But of course, these solar panels came from the federal stimulus funds so since it is not state money, it must be “free money” – right?