While most work to escape the hot summer sun, Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative is working to chase it with work beginning on a 500,000-watt solar array to be built on 1.5-acres near the utilities regional office in Van Buren.
Today’s Power Inc. – an AVEC subsidiary – is building the array and Coop officials say the upfront cost will be recovered by reducing costs for wholesale power during demand periods. The utility also plans to use the facility as a “demonstration and education tool” for members and the general public.
“The TPI solution will enable our cooperative to realize cost savings by reducing the demand for wholesale power, assist in peak shaving and help stabilize capacity in high-use periods. Bottom line, it should help to keep rates low. The affordable after-tax installed cost, the safety of the low-voltage design and the use of experienced construction crews to install the system were key factors in our decision,” said Al Simpson, with AVEC.
According to AVEC, the array will use a “Ten K Solar REFLECT 26 photovoltaic system” that “requires much less land than other solar array energy options.” The array will be made up of 1,530 panels.
AVEC Spokesman Greg Davis said there will only be minor repair and maintenance costs after the facility is finished. He also said the array will help the utility better respond to the hot days when electricity demand spikes.
“The biggest advantage will be realized through offset in peak demand cost. The system will be positioned to maximize late afternoon sun (summer peak hours). We save on peak demand, members save,” Davis noted.
SOLAR POWER GROWTH
The Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) and Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation (OECC) recently completed a 100-acre solar power site in Camden. The 151,200 solar panels are expected to provide electricity to the growing defense industry operations in East Camden. The 12-megawatt solar field – the largest in Arkansas – will generate electricity equivalent to powering 2,400 homes.
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.
The most recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that solar produced 4,036 thousand megawatt hours of electricity in March, up 25.4% compared to March 2015. The electricity from solar power was 1.3% of all U.S. electricity produced in March.
The Solar Energy Industries Association reported March 9 that 7,260 megawatts of solar power were installed in the U.S. during 2015. The addition brought total U.S. solar power to 27.4 gigawatts, or enough to power 5.4 million homes. For the first time ever, solar topped natural gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.4% of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the U.S. in 2015.