Fayetteville, Ozarks Electric and TPI, Attach Solar-Storage Combo to Grid

Left to Right: Mitchell Johnson (CEO of Ozarks Electric Cooperative), Chairman Ted Thomas (Arkansas Public Service Comission), Michael Henderson (President of Today’s Power), Mayor Lioneld Jordan (City of Fayetteville).

Left to Right: Mitchell Johnson (CEO of Ozarks Electric Cooperative), Chairman Ted Thomas (Arkansas Public Service Comission), Michael Henderson (President of Today’s Power), Mayor Lioneld Jordan (City of Fayetteville).

One of the state's first large-scale combinations of solar energy generation and battery storage hooked onto the power grid this week, a $23 million milestone in the city of Fayetteville's commitment to sustainable energy.

The city partnered with Ozarks Electric Cooperative of Fayetteville and Today's Power Inc. of Little Rock to hook up three solar farms and two battery storage units on 87 acres near the city's two water treatment facilities. The installation, including 10 megawatts of sun generation and 24 megawatt-hours of on-site storage, is expected to save the city $180,000 a year, officials said.

The water treatment plants — the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Facility in east Fayetteville and the Westside Water Treatment Facility — are Fayetteville's largest city power users. 

The solar panels are on a sun tracking system that generates 15 percent more power than stationary mounts at peak solar times, electricity that the electric cooperative will use to offset peak summer usage.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan

Mayor Lioneld Jordan

"Climate change is affecting cities around the world," Mayor Lioneld Jordan said at the dedication. "The City of Fayetteville is committed to honoring the goals of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement, starting right here in our own community."

Fayetteville began working on the project in March with Ozarks and Today's Power as part of the city's Energy Action Plan, which has a goal of powering all city operations with 100% clean and cost-efficient power by 2030.

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"We want to lead by example for our residents, students, businesses, and utility partners — showing the nation that supporting low-carbon initiatives not only promotes renewable energy and efficiency — it also creates opportunities for good jobs and investments in the Northwest Arkansas region," the mayor added. "This incredible project demonstrates Fayetteville's commitment."

This project was the first utility-scale solar plus storage project in the mid-South when announced at the end of 2018, officials said, predicting a landslide of similar projects soon.

Mitchel Johnson, CEO of Ozarks Electric

Mitchel Johnson, CEO of Ozarks Electric

"This project is a demonstration for how integrated solar and batteries can together deliver dispatchable electricity into the grid when it is needed, whether or not the sun is available at that moment," Today's Power President Michael Henderson said. "Early renewable adopters had to change their lifestyle to enjoy renewable energy, but with storage, the consumer can live a normal lifestyle."

Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks Electric Cooperative, praised the installation as forward-thinking. 

"The connection of a project delivering reliable, renewable power to help the city of Fayetteville achieve the goals of their energy plan was a milestone for the cooperative," he said. "Solar power combined with storage will play a significant role in our electricity grid in the future."

Peter Nierengarten, the city's environmental director, said the endeavor demonstrates how Fayetteville's "progressive energy policies can drive market innovation and create collaborative partnerships." He expects it to provide Fayetteville with "cost-effective energy security while also protecting our environment."

Today's Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., designed the system in conjunction with upgrading electrical systems at the wastewater facilities while homing in on Fayetteville's clean energy goals. Ozarks Electric, a member-owned cooperative serving 75,000 meters across nine counties in Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma, upgraded existing electrical connections and is providing maintenance. Today's Power will have 99% ownership of the solar system and the city will own 1%. TPI will be sole owner and operator of the storage system. 

Fayetteville was the first Arkansas city to adopt an energy action plan, and just the 54th across the nation.

Jennah Denney