Work begins on largest municipal solar project in Arkansas

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,422 views 

Leaders of the city of Fayetteville, Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power Inc. (TPI) broke ground Monday (March 4) on the largest solar power system on municipal land in Arkansas. The 10-megawatt system will be the only system in the state with onsite utility-scale storage.

The $23 million system will include 24 megawatt-hours of battery storage and will operate on 87 acres at the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Facility in east Fayetteville and the Westside Water Treatment Facility in west Fayetteville. The two sewer plants consume more electricity than any other city facility, and the system should produce about 103% of the total electricity consumption of the two plants. The battery storage will be available for when the system produces more or less electricity than the plants need and will be a source from which Ozarks Electric to draw during peak use periods instead of purchasing electricity to meet demand.

The system is expected to increase the city’s renewable energy consumption from city operations to 72%, from 16%, and allow the city to save $6 million over 20 years. The city will pay $560,818 on the project and expects a return on investment in a little more than three years. The city has negotiated a 20-year solar services contract with TPI at a marginally lower energy price than the existing retail rate, and the city expects to save $182,021 annually.

The city on Nov. 20, 2018, approved an agreement with Ozarks Electric and TPI to build the system. The city on Jan. 2, 2018, approved an energy action plan, with goals for the city government to operate on 100% clean energy by 2030 and for the entire city to operate on 100% clean energy by 2050. The system is expected to be completed in late summer 2019.

“Climate change is a very serious threat and a significant economic opportunity for our city and our nation,” Mayor Lioneld Jordan said. “Fayetteville is committed to combat climate change by supporting a low-carbon economy and creating good jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Through this important agreement with Today’s Power and Ozarks Electric, the Fayetteville community moves closer to several goals in our energy action plan.”

The system will include solar photovoltaic panels that will have a sun tracking system that produces 15% more electricity than stationary mounts. Ozarks Electric will upgrade and maintain existing electricity connections at the system sites. TPI will own 99% of the system, and the city will own 1%. TPI will own 100% of the battery storage.

“We continue to partner with the city of Fayetteville on many projects, and this one is the most exciting yet,” said Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks Electric. “Working together, we will help the city increase its resources for renewable energy and help the city reach the goals of their energy action plan. This project is an example of how utilities and large-scale power consumers can meet the needs of the future through innovation and partnership.”

The net metering facility must be approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission because it exceeds 300 kilowatts.