TPI, Ozarks Electric Cooperative complete solar array projects; Seal Solar staffs up

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,297 views 

North Little Rock-based renewable energy company Today’s Power Inc. (TPI) and Ozarks Electric Cooperative of Fayetteville recently marked the completion of a 2.7-megawatt array on 25 acres near Lincoln.

The Ozarks Natural Energy array that was announced in December 2020 will provide renewable energy to multi-industry entities including the city of Springdale, Elkins Public Schools, Lincoln Public Schools and OzarksGo. The array is expected to produce more than 4 million kilowatt-hours within its first year of service. The array also will include about 7 megawatts of energy storage that Ozarks Electric can use to reduce wholesale demand charges. The array is estimated to save the participating entities more than $3 million over 20 years.

“We are excited to have a cost-effective solution that lets us participate in renewable energy,” Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said. “Our city often looks for ways to be good stewards of what we have been given.”

Mary Ann Spears, superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, said the district hadn’t been looking at solar but was surprised and excited to learn how much the school district could save by participating in the project. The district also plans to use the site for student field trips and teaching opportunities.

“I cannot express how excited I am to see different entities working together to create value for their students, citizens and customers,” Henderson said. “Every project participant is focused on service and improving the quality of life for their constituents. It feels more like a life mission than a business project that saves money for the entities.”

Another solar project that was completed recently will generate about 20% of North Little Rock Wastewater Utility’s electricity demand. The utility and North Little Rock-based solar power developer Scenic Hill Solar recently celebrated the completion of the 850-kilowatt DC array that will produce more than 1.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first year of operation and more than 40 million kilowatt-hours over the next 30 years. Scenic Hill Solar and North Little Rock Wastewater Utility announced in March 2020 the project that’s expected to result in more than $1 million in economic development.

“The utility is proud to be the sole owner of this power plant and to begin saving money on behalf of our ratepayers while promoting renewable energy,” said Michael Clayton, executive director of North Little Rock Wastewater Utility. “It is a win-win for the utility as good stewards of our budget and the environment.”

The 2,000-panel array uses a single-axis tracking system that’s expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 28,000 metric tons, which is equal to driving more than 70 million fewer passenger car miles or eliminating the burning of over 31 million pounds of coal or providing over 4,800 homes with electricity for one year.

North Little Rock-based solar array installer Seal Solar recently announced adding 15 staff, including former state Rep. Nate Bell, I-Mena, who will serve as a commercial solar consultant.

“The renewable energy industry is expanding quickly in Arkansas, and so too is Seal Solar,” said Josh Davenport, co-founder and CEO of Seal Solar. “Newly announced electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure investments—along with our state’s pro-solar policies and federal tax credits—will further accelerate this trend, allowing us to help even more Arkansans achieve energy independence.”

Seal Solar has 52 employees. New employees include Bell, Michael Johnson and Cole Van Horn, commercial solar consultants; Lawrence Donaho, Brayden Hardy and Danny Molina, solar consultants; Chris Flores, EV charger consultant; Preston Garrett, Hunter Gossett, Ty Harris, Calvin Standridge and Azzy Thomas, crew associates; Amanda Gordon, solar consultant intern; Maiko Hipple, bookkeeper; and Cameron Holsten, commercial design consultant.

In 2020, the company completed 250 design and installation projects in Arkansas. Earlier this year, it invested in Evolve Auto, the only exclusive electric vehicle dealership in the Southern United States. According to a news release, Seal Solar is the only U.S. business, except for Tesla, that with one transaction can provide solar-powered systems that include panels, batteries, electric vehicle chargers and electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center recently released the U.S. Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index that shows Arkansas is tied for last because of its ban on direct-to-consumer EV sales, and the state’s EV licensing fees are more than seven times higher than standard passenger vehicle vehicles.

“The state government in Arkansas needs to get out of the way if Arkansas is going to join the EV revolution,” said David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center and index co-author. “Arkansas’ ban on direct-to-consumer vehicle sales actively discriminates against EV manufacturers, which does nothing but make these vehicles more expensive and less accessible. In today’s modern age of limitless information, there is no serious justification for a ban on direct sale, other than protecting the existing industry from disruption and competition.”

Elizabeth Hicks, U.S. affairs analyst and index co-author, highlighted the high cost to register an electric vehicle in the state.

“Rather than actively discourage consumers from purchasing EVs with inflated fees, the state should remain neutral and simply treat EVs like they would any other standard passenger vehicle,” Hicks said.

According to the index, Arkansas was tied for last with Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont were tied for first, the index shows.

“We recommend that the state review these outdated and heavy-handed policies so that Arkansas isn’t watching the EV revolution from the sidelines,” Clement added.

Link here to access the index.