Counties and Cities Get Their Day in the Sun
Solar power savings fund infrastructure, deferred maintenance
By Kyle Massey KMassey@ABPG.com
“Do you like money?”
“Are you interested in saving a lot of it?”
That’s Rick Vance’s simple pitch to towns, counties, agencies and schools freed by a new law to partner with third-party companies in solar energy projects.
Vance is regional director for Entegrity Energy Partners LLC of Little Rock, one of several Arkansas solar providers riding the wave as local governments, agencies and schools plunge into a new solar mainstream. (See list.)
With utility savings from solar arrays and energy performance contracting, non-taxed entities are “making improvements, doing deferred maintenance and even using some for big capital projects,” Vance said.
“Solar is now the cheapest way to buy electricity. “A combination of the new law [Act 464 of 2019], tax advantages and other factors mean this is the best time” to act, he said, “with no upfront capital costs and guaranteed savings. Why would you not do this?” Vendors like Today’s Power Inc. of Little Rock are building multiple government and school arrays this year.
“Interest in solar by governmental and educational entities has really escalated,” said Michael Henderson, president of Today’s Power. He said changes in law and tax incentives add up to a good bottom line.
“Today, solar is available for almost anyone for under 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, and for larger systems well under 5 cents. These savings are very attractive for budget-strained governmental entities.”
The average Arkansas retail electricity price is 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to June data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
County solar projects are either built or underway in Washington, Phillips and Jefferson counties; cities joining the parade include Fayetteville, Clarksville, Helena-West Helena and Stuttgart, which announced a collaboration with Scenic Hill just last week. The Walnut Ridge City Council is considering a project with Entegrity, which is also working with Searcy Water Utilities on a solar panel system approved Tuesday by the utility’s board.
City of Fayetteville
A Today’s Power Project
Today’s Power will break ground on a solar plant for the city of Paris (Logan County) this summer, the company revealed exclusively to Arkansas Business last week. It is already building Fayetteville’s city system, featuring 10 megawatts of solar production and up to 24 megawatts of battery storage, on 87 acres at the town’s two water treatment plants. Ozarks Electric Cooperative is another partner in those arrays. Scenic Hill is planning a 6.5-megawatt plant for Ouachita County and its seat, Camden.
Katie Niebaum, executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, said solar’s cost advantages let local leaders “free up precious resources, many times for critical items that have been delayed due to budget restraints. Moreover, solar projects provide jobs and serve as an economic multiplier in the communities where they are developed.”
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