Solar Project in Arkansas Designed With Wildlife in Mind

It won’t produce a lot of power, but a new cooperative solar project could play a major role for butterflies, bees and bobwhite quail that live or migrate through Arkansas’ Delta region.

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Craighead Electric Cooperative has just turned on a 1-megawatt solar array, but the landscaping work just getting underway will give a huge boost to wildlife for years to come.

“We’ve built the array on land that’s been used to grow soybeans and other crops for generations,” said Monty Williams, vice president of marketing and communications for Craighead Electric Cooperative Corp.

Jonesboro-based CECC developed the array on an 11-acre site near Brookland. While it’s only expected to produce enough electricity to meet the needs of 135 average homes in the co-op’s service territory, the site’s habitat management plan could improve conditions for a number of species found in Arkansas’ Delta region.

“The Craighead Electric board of directors and management emphasized that their members must receive economic as well as environmental benefits, and this solar system accomplishes both,” said Michael Henderson, president of Today’s Power Inc.

Little Rock-based TPI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., builds and maintains photovoltaic systems, energy storage projects and electric vehicle charging stations.

“Our solar systems are customized around a utility’s wholesale billing [cost factors] and load characteristics specifically to produce maximum value for the customer,” said Henderson, noting that TPI has now built 18 such projects in Arkansas. “We have five more in the planning stage that will be announced soon.”

Craighead Electric and TPI worked with the City of Brookland and the conservation group Quail Forever to meet several environmental goals for the project’s design.  They include sustainable pollinator habitat for bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, and cover and forage for cottontail rabbits, bobwhite quail and indigenous and migratory songbirds.

Community partners including 4-H, FFA and scouting groups will be assisting with plantings and other improvements at the site in the coming months.

“This project shows Craighead Electric’s commitment to providing a low-cost source of energy to our membership,” said Craighead Electric CEO Brian Duncan, adding that the project underscores the co-op’s commitment to the environmentally responsible use of renewable energy.

Derrill Holly is a staff writer at NRECA.

Jennah Denney