Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has recognized an Arkansas organization as part of its 2017 SEPA Power Player Awards.
Ouachita Electric Cooperative (OECC) of Camden was named Electric Cooperative Utility of the Year. OECC was recognized for its work to build the first utility-scale solar array in Arkansas.
Winners were honored Monday (July 26) as part of SEPA’s Grid Evolution Summit: A National Town Meeting in Washington, D.C.
“We are overwhelmed to be honored with this award,” OECC general manager Mark Cayce said in a statement. “This project has clearly demonstrated by working together as a unified team everybody wins. New technology has started to take root here. Our goal has been to refocus attention on south Arkansas as a leader in innovative energy efficiency programs, clean energy and high-speed fiber internet service in the rural area we serve.”
OECC worked with its largest industrial member, defense contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, project developer Silicon Ranch and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) to build the 12-megawatt solar array in east Camden. The unique part of the collaboration, according to OECC, was the power purchase agreement (PPA) that placed the array behind Aerojet Rocketdyne’s meter, giving the company a fixed, low-cost power supply.
The solar array provided approximately 6-megawatts of peak capacity and energy to AECC, while at the same time reducing the peak demand for OECC. The reduction has lowered the cost of power for OECC’s more than 7,000 members.
Now in its ninth year, the SEPA Power Players Awards recognize utilities, their industry partners, individuals and other stakeholders on the front lines of energy transformation in the United States that are significantly advancing knowledge of or access to distributed energy resources that benefit electricity consumers and the grid. The award winners are chosen by an independent panel of seven judges with diverse experience in the electric power industry.
According to SEPA President and CEO Julia Hamm, building large-scale solar in a part of the country where it hasn’t been done before is difficult.
“What we see from Ouachita, and many others, is that it isn’t too big of a hurdle to circumvent,” she said. “Creative PPAs and unique program designs such as Ouachita’s that benefit both the member and the grid is another example of work being done to move the United States toward a clean energy future.”