by Kyle Massey on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 11:45 am 2 min read
South Arkansas’ march toward solar power got another nudge Friday when Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden broke ground with Today’s Power Inc. of Little Rock on a 1-megawatt array to generate more than two-thirds of the campus’ electricity.
The 10-acre project, featuring single-axis tracking, is in line with projects that TPI has completed for many of the state’s nonprofit electric cooperatives and several other businesses, including Ouachita Electric Cooperative in Camden and South Arkansas Telephone Co. in Hampton (Calhoun County). East Camden is home to the one of the state’s largest solar power generators, the 77-megawatt complex built by Silicon Ranch for Aerojet Rocketdyne’s manufacturing facility in Highland Industrial Park.
SAU Tech’s system will provide a fixed price for electricity for 20-25 years, with savings to be applied to growing the college and educating students.
“We believe that it is our responsibility and goal as a state-funded college to use all the means available to us to be fiscally responsible,” SAU Tech Chancellor Jason Morrison said in a statement. “Creating an avenue for sustainable, renewable energy for our campus is a great example of an action toward that goal. We are grateful for all the hard work that Ouachita Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power have invested toward the success of this project.”
SAU Tech saw the potential in solar power when Today’s Power installed solar power at OECC’s Camden headquarters. A partnership model between SAU Tech and OECC required coordination with the the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, local legislators and the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
“SAU Tech has been a key partner developing solar as an energy resource in South Arkansas since planning for the first utility-scale solar project in the state began in 2014,” said Mark Cayce, the OECC general manager who has gained a reputation as an innovator in renewable power. “It was only natural the school would have a solar facility for its own use. The ability to demonstrate the economic benefits of clean renewable energy while educating young people as they begin to enter the workforce is an invaluable tool.”
SAU Tech, a two-year college with 150 staff and faculty members, expects to save about $105,000 a year, and the college will get about 30 percent of its power from OECC while 70 percent comes from the new array. The project is the 23rd for TPI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. of Little Rock.