Solar plant begins operating for Pulaski County; another in works for England

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,039 views 

Officials with North Little Rock-based Today’s Power Inc. conduct a tour of a solar facility in Pulaski County.

Renewable energy companies in central Arkansas recently completed solar arrays for an area city and county. North Little Rock-based Today’s Power Inc. (TPI) recently interconnected a solar array to the grid for Pulaski County, while Little Rock-based Delta Solar will soon complete an array as part of an agreement with the city of England.

TPI recently completed the first of two solar power plants for Pulaski County. The 250-kilowatt solar array is operating near the Pulaski County Detention Center in Little Rock. The 756-panel solar array is expected to reduce the county’s expenses for electricity consumption, according to a news release. It’s also expected to improve quality of life in Pulaski County by protecting public safety and reducing energy costs and will save the county at least $150,000 in the first year, said County Judge Barry Hyde.

The second phase of the project will consist of a TPI 4.6-megawatt fixed-tilt solar array located at Little Rock Port Authority Industrial Park. It’s pending approval by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. The system is expected to be completed in 2021. Once completed, both projects combined will equal a total capacity of 86% of the county’s existing electricity demand.

“Pulaski County led the effort to open access for nonprofits and counties to use reliable, renewable energy in 2019, and now we are proud to have ‘flipped the switch’ on a solar array dedicated to Pulaski County’s use,” Hyde said. “This project will result in significant financial savings to Pulaski County. Those savings will allow us to divert funds to more impactful services such as youth services, emergency management or public works. This is the right thing to do, environmentally and financially.”

In 2019, Pulaski County selected TPI to provide solar-produced power for county use. Work on the recently completed array started in late 2020 after all regulatory and utility approvals were issued. In a 20-year agreement, the county will purchase electricity generated by the array at 4.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. TPI will finance, operate and own 100% of the array.

“Through technology and partnership, this project exemplifies a forward-thinking approach to meeting Pulaski County’s future needs,” said TPI President Michael Henderson. “This project will provide Pulaski County with cost-effective energy security, and we appreciate Judge Barry Hyde’s foresight and the county’s willingness to take on a project like this to promote Pulaski County’s environmental and economic development.”

The project was possible as a result of Act 464 of 2019, which allows governmental entities to net-meter renewable energy purchased from a private producer. This arrangement aims to reduce costs in part by preserving federal tax incentives available for investment in power-producing solar facilities.

A partnership between Delta Solar and the city of England will leverage non-developable land to build solar arrays for commercial, industrial and agricultural customers across the state, according to a news release. The first phase of the project will include 12 acres off Arkansas Highway 165 that can accommodate more than 2 megawatts of solar arrays. In return for using the land, Delta Solar will provide the city of England with a 37-kilowatt solar array that will supply enough electricity to power the courthouse and parks system.

“Solar provides long-term benefits for the city,” said England Mayor Butch House. “When looking at how others are approaching solar it became obvious that we wanted to own our system and not rely on projected increases in electric rates.”

The city of England will own the array, and Delta Solar will build and maintain it.

“The best solar panels are the ones you own,” said Bob East, chairman at Delta Solar. “Innovation is at the heart of what we do every day to create long-term value for our customers. While power purchase agreements can definitely be attractive, long-term savings are based largely on the projected changes in the future electric rates. Unlike others, the city of England doesn’t need to worry about those changes because they own the system outright.”

East noted the city can expand its array at any time.

“The panels are installed and currently waiting on Entergy to install three transformers,” he added. “We will then attach our panels to the new electrical panel, and the installation will begin producing electricity. This should all be complete and generating power within 30 days.”

The first phase of the partnership is expected to provide more than $174,000 in savings over the project’s 30-year expected life, according to the release. The energy savings will be received directly by the city because it will own the array. The city also will retain ownership of the environmental attributes, known as Renewable Energy Credits, associated with the electricity generation from the new system.