Fayetteville moves toward 100% renewable energy, saves $6 million in future energy costs

by Talk Business & Politics staff (staff2@talkbusiness.net) 530 views 

The Fayetteville City Council unanimously voted Tuesday (Nov. 20) to approve a trilateral agreement among the city, Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power Inc. (TPI) for the development, construction and operation of Arkansas’s largest solar power system on municipal land.

City officials in a news release said it will be the only solar power system in Arkansas with onsite utility-scale storage.

In addition to the expected $6 million saved in energy costs over the project’s 20-year lifespan, the city anticipates a complete return on its investment in a little more than three years. The project will also raise clean energy consumption by city facilities from 16% to 72%, taking a huge step toward Fayetteville’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2030.

TPI will manage project construction and provide full operations and maintenance of the solar arrays and energy storage facilities during the 20-year agreement, leasing the necessary acreage from the city. The systems will operate on Fayetteville’s two water treatment facility properties — the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Facility in east Fayetteville and the Westside Water Treatment Facility. Ozarks Electric will upgrade and maintain existing electricity connections at the sites. The city will continue its income-producing hay and bio-solid operations at the Noland facility.

The capacity of the entire system at both locations totals 10 MW of solar power generation and 24 MWh of battery storage on a combined land mass of 87 acres, according to the release. For maximum solar exposure, solar panels will be installed on a sun tracking system that produces 15% more electricity than stationary mounts. Currently, Fayetteville’s wastewater treatment plants are the city’s two largest electricity consuming accounts at approximately 67% of the city’s overall electricity consumption. Through solar net metering, the system will power 100% of the treatment facilities.

Each treatment facility will have systems with two main components, according to the release — the array of solar photovoltaic panels and the battery storage facility. The array will be able to generate 5 MW (five megawatts) of electricity. Energy produced by the solar panels will be dispersed to power the wastewater treatment facilities. Excess electricity will be sent to the electrical grid for use by Ozarks Electric, or relayed to the battery storage facility, capable of storing 12 MWh of electricity.

Ozarks Electric will use stored electricity to provide power to their members during peak-consumption times like summer. Because of the unique nature of this project, cooperative members will continue to benefit from reliable service without subsidies or associated rate impacts.

In 2016, Fayetteville joined the O.N.E. (Ozarks Natural Energy) solar community project when it purchased 100 shares of solar energy from Ozarks Electric’s one-megawatt solar array located along Highway 412 near Springdale. Ozarks Electric continues to welcome and encourages new members to join the O.N.E. solar community. TPI constructed and currently operates that facility.

As part of the long-term agreement, the city has negotiated a 20-year solar services contract with TPI at a marginally lower energy price than the current retail rate. The city anticipates its portion of the project’s initial capital site improvement cost to total $560,818. Calculating estimated future annual solar electricity costs and minimal hay and bio-solid revenue loss against the wastewater treatment facilities current standard electricity costs, the city expects an annual savings of $182,021.

Due to the reduced fixed cost of solar electricity and the anticipated increasing cost for standard retail electricity, officials estimated the project will save the city $6 million dollars over 20 years.

“This year, the City Council showed great vision and leadership for their residents when they approved the Energy Action Plan in January 2018,” Mayor Lioneld Jordan said in a statement. “Through this important agreement with Today’s Power and Ozarks Electric, the Fayetteville community moves closer to several goals in the plan. The approval of this solar power and storage project creates the renewable energy our community desires, uses existing City-owned assets more efficiently, adds jobs and promotes economic development.”

Assuming no regulatory, review or equipment delays, construction is expected to begin in spring 2019 and be complete by September 2019. Operations will begin shortly thereafter.

Fayetteville’s Energy Action Plan (EAP) addresses the local effects of climate change, energy efficiency efforts, and clean energy production. It is the first to be adopted in Arkansas and the 54th in the nation.

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