Construction to begin on solar power plant in Camden

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 166 views 

Nashville-based renewable energy provider Silicon Ranch Corp. announced Tuesday (June 2) that it has hired Phoenix-based McCarthy Building Companies Inc. to handle the engineering and construction of a 12-megawatt (MW) solar energy project planned for the fast-growing Highland Industrial Park in East Camden.

Silicon Ranch officials said McCarthy is one of the largest American-owned construction firms, and was selected to lead the project because of its extensive track record with utility-scale power projects. In addition, McCarthy plans to expand its renewable operations into South Arkansas and hire local subcontractors and craftsmen to provide the bulk of on-site construction work for the 6-month project, which will begin next week, officials said.

In February, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. and East Camden defense contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne first announced the deal to build and manage what was then called the largest solar field in Arkansas. Silicon Ranch will be the owner and operator of the solar project.

The South Arkansas renewable energy project will be located adjacent to Lockheed Martin’s JLTV production site, which is in the running to build 55,000 off-road tactical vehicles that the Pentagon is expected to announce next month.

The project’s construction is expected to support between 250 and 350 direct and indirect jobs, with a direct financial impact estimated to exceed $25 million dollars, officials said. McCarthy will provide on-site training in utility-scale solar construction for workers in pile driving, tracker assembly and panel installation.

“In addition to the economic impacts during the construction phase, the solar field helps environmentally contribute to the business case that we believe will favorably position Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Camden operations against other highly competitive alternatives,” said Gary Vaughan, general manager of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Camden operations.

The East Camden solar facility is expected to come online in late 2015. Under the terms of the deal, Silicon Ranch will build the solar field next to Aerojet Rocketdyne’s 1,200-acre manufacturing and test facility in the fast-growing industrial park. There, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of publicly traded GenCorp., produces propulsion motors for the Lockheed Martin’s Patriot missile system in the South Arkansas city.

Earlier this month, Silicon Ranch officials announced that it had selected another Arizona-based company, First Solar of Tempe, to provide power for the Arkansas solar plant. First Solar is one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of photovoltaic units designed for large scale, commercial and off-grid solar projects.

The East Camden project is one of many renewable energy projects that are being developed across the state in the solar, wind and biomass sectors. In April, Entergy Arkansas announced plans to build an 81-megawatt photovoltaic solar energy generating facility in Arkansas County. That emissions-free solar energy facility is not expected to be connected to Entergy Arkansas’ transmission grid until the end of the decade.

If approved by the state Public Service Commission, it would surpass the Camden solar project in size.

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