Searcy Water Utilities has partnered with solar power developer Entegrity Energy Partners of Little Rock to build a 5.7-megawatt solar power plant to meet the utility’s electricity demand, according to a news release.
Entegrity plans to start work on the $10 million plant after receiving approval from Arkansas Public Service Commission, likely in November, said Sam Selig, director of the water division for Entegrity. The plant is expected to be completed in the first half of 2020.
In 2018, the utility started to look into solar power as a means to reduce electricity costs and selected Entegrity to provide solar power options for the utility. The Searcy Board of Public Utilities approved July 17 an agreement with the company that’s expected to save the utility $7 million over the life of the solar plant.
“Over the past year, we have done our due diligence and have concluded that a solar agreement with Entegrity will greatly benefit our customers by allowing us to reduce costs on electricity,” said Dan Dawson, general manager of Searcy Water Utilities. “These savings allow us to invest more into our system without increasing water rates. Keeping water and sewer rates low helps bring jobs to Searcy.”
Entegrity will build, own and operate the solar plant for the utility, and it will be built on 20 acres at two locations. A 1.2-megawatt array will be at the wastewater plant and another 4.5-megawatt array will be at an offsite location, which has yet to be determined but is expected to be in the city or near it, Selig said.
The plant is expected to produce 8.6 gigawatt-hours annually, and this is enough to power 800 homes and reduces the need to burn 6.6 million pounds of coal. It’s the largest solar plant under the new Solar Access Act, according to the release.
“The staff and board members of Searcy Water Utilities have been great to work with throughout this process,” Selig said. “By partnering with Entegrity, Searcy Water Utilities was able to utilize federal tax credits to lower their project cost. Once the utility understood the transaction, the decision really became a no-brainer.”
Searcy Water Utilities has over 10,000 customers in Searcy and White County.
“This project is going to put us in a better financial position,” Dawson said. Just as important, it goes to show that Searcy, Ark., is continuously improving, part of what makes us one of the greatest communities in the state. With as big of a role as renewable energy is going to play in the coming years, I am excited for our kids and grandkids to see these installations and begin to think about their possibilities.”
“For Searcy Water Utilities to approve a project like this show that its board is looking out for its customers and the future of the utility,” Selig said. “Entegrity develops and has completed solar installations for water utilities, cities, counties, state agencies, school districts and universities throughout Arkansas and the surrounding states.”