The city of Greenwood will soon power all of its municipal buildings with renewable energy. The city is partnering with Little Rock-based Scenic Hill Solar to build two solar power plants providing electricity to the city.
The solar plants will total 950 KW DC of capacity and produce renewable energy for all Greenwood government and municipal operations, said Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow. The project will save the city over $48,000 a year, according to a press release.
The only cost to the city for the move to solar power was the purchase of 10 acres of land near already owned city property on Highway 10 behind a city water treatment facility. That purchase cost the city $40,000, which will be recovered with the savings in the first year of the solar plant operation, Kinslow said.
The solar power arrays need four acres each, Kinslow said. The city wanted one located in the service territory of each of the power companies that serve the city, but the city did not own four acres of open land in the Southwestern Electric Power Company territory, he said. The solar power plant in Southwestern Electric Power Company service territory will total 750 KW DC and will be located on city owned land bordering a water treatment facility. The second solar power plant in Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative service territory will total 200 KW DC and will be located on city owned land next to Greenwood Lake, southwest of the water treatment plant. Scenic Hill Solar will build, own, and operate the new solar power plants and sell electricity to the city under a long term contract.
The approximately $1.7 million project will provide local jobs and immediate local economic development, and will save the city more than $1.9 million over the next 28 years, the press release said. Power produced by the plant will not be available to city residents, Kinslow said. He said the city would remain connected to both power company grids for backup in case of emergencies, noting that city facilities lie in both companies’ territory.
“We are extremely excited and proud to announce our partnership with Scenic Hill Solar. By powering all municipal facilities and operations with renewable energy, we are taking a huge step in being good stewards of taxpayer’s money while making a positive impact on our environment,” he said.
City Planning Director Sonny Bell was the one to find the way for the city to switch to renewable energy with a cost to the city, Kinslow said.
“I had asked him to find ways to improve the city’s funding and spending. He researched several companies to be able to do this,” Kinslow said.
Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar, said they commend the mayor and city council for “moving forward with vision and boldness to provide renewable electricity, reduce total taxpayer spending on electricity, and stimulate local economic development through the construction of two power plants. This commitment to smart sustainability is a big reason for companies to look to Greenwood as a place to thrive.”
The two solar power plants will contain over 2,335 solar modules, utilize two ground-mounted fixed tilt systems and reduce carbon emissions by over 28,140 metric tons over the next 30 years, which is the equivalent of driving more than 70 million fewer passenger car miles or eliminating the burning of more than 30 million pounds of coal or providing over 4,215 homes electricity for one year.
Greenwood will not be the first city in the state to switch to solar energy for city buildings. Clarksville has multiple arrays and has used solar energy for a few years, and Hot Springs uses solar power for municipal buildings, Kinslow said. But he has high hopes the city will be first in the Arkansas River Valley region.
“Alma is pursuing a similar partnership. I’ve been joking with the mayor, saying I hope we beat them. I don’t know if we will,” Kinslow said.
Van Buren is also looking into a partnership for solar energy, he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the city some in its attempt to get the plants built and the city switched to solar power, but Kinslow said he hopes construction will begin on the plants by the end of the month of first of February and the city is hooked up and ready to go by the end of the first quarter of the year.
“It’s the right thing to do. That we can do it without it costing the city makes it certainly the right thing to do now,” Kinslow said.
Scenic Hill Solar provides commercial, industrial, government and utility clients clean electricity, reduced energy prices and long-term electricity price certainty by developing client specific solar energy plans, the press release said.
The advanced energy sector expanded in 2020, and its growth is expected to continue into 2021 as the energy industry transitions to renewables.
“Advanced energy is growing by leaps and bounds in Arkansas,” said Stephanie Osborne, executive director for Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA). “It is providing Arkansans a range of diverse options for their power needs.”
In December, Scenic Hill Solar and Central Arkansas Water announced a 4.8-megawatt DC solar array as the first net-metering project of its size to receive Arkansas Public Service commission approval. In 2019, state legislators approved the Solar Access Act, now Act 464, allowing non-tax entities to receive third-party financing for solar projects.