KATV Ch. 7’s Elicia Dover reports:
A section of solar panels at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Hospital is being torn down after being built only two years ago and never turned on.
The panels are being taken down for the construction of a parking garage. Channel 7 obtained video of some of the panels being torn down last week. The panels will eventually be relocated to the top of that parking garage.
The Central Arkansas VA would not release the estimated cost to construct the panels and then later deconstruct them, calling it “procurement sensitive information,” because the parking garage contract is ongoing.
The VA did not provide information on what stage the solar panel project was in when the parking garage was approved or if they could have halted the construction of that section of solar panels if there were plans to tear them down.
“The VA approved the Parking Garage project (and the subsequent location) after the Solar Project had already broken ground,” a spokesperson for the VA said in a statement.
According to the VA, reinstallation of the solar panels on top of the Parking Garage is included in the Parking Garage contract.
The solar panels were built in 2013 after an $8 million dollar grant from the federal government. The panels were expected to produce 1.8 megawatts of power, but the project hit a snag.
Even though the panels are ready to be operational, it was discovered the panels needed some additional engineering work to ensure there are no impacts on Entergy’s system.
A spokesperson for the VA told Channel 7 News that the contractor, formerly known as Sunwize, now known as EcoCleanSolar, is in the process of revising the engineering drawings to ensure compliance with the National Fire Protection Codes as well as Entergy’s requirements.
A spokesperson for the Central Arkansas VA says they are awaiting submission of these engineering changes and they expect the project to be completed by fall of this year. The parking garage is expected to be completed by summer of 2016.
Solar panels were also installed at the North Little Rock VA and are operational.
Channel 7 News has requested a full interview with Little Rock VA officials.
Watch the full video report and add comments at this link.
UPDATE: Following the airing of this story, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, issued the following statement:
“Tonight, I saw Elicia Dover’s story, and like a lot of viewers, I am angry and frustrated. Any project that is a rushed and unplanned waste of hardworking taxpayers’ dollars is unacceptable. The $8 million solar panel project, which appears to have been changed on a whim, may seem like a drop in the bucket when compared to the staggering $18 trillion federal debt, but every expense must be fully justified and our financial resources directed to assisting those we are trying to help – in this case Arkansas’s veterans.. If this story proves accurate, then simply put, this is a government failure, and I will work with Congressional leadership and the VA to figure out how such a blatant waste of taxpayer money was ever allowed to occur.”