by Tyler Hale
The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is going solar.
The North Little Rock-based maker space is partnering with Scenic Hill Solar to build a solar power plant that will provide electricity for its facilities. Scenic Hill Solar will be constructing a 72 kilowatt (kW) power plant that will produce 42 percent renewable energy that will power the Hub’s operations.
Featuring more than 175 solar modules, the power plant is expected to generate approximately 109,000 kWh of electricity in its first year. The solar plant is designed to position the Innovation Hub for future electricity needs, and it is projected to produce 3,000,000 kWh of electricityover the course of 30 years.
The solar plant will be multi-functional, as it will be mounted on canopies that will provide covered parking for the Innovation Hub. According to Scenic Hill Solar CEO Bill Halter, the solar modules will be placed on horizontal assemblies that will sit on steel posts driven into the ground.
“This is a nice, innovative project. We’re delighted to be able to put the modules on canopies and essentially and provided covered parking and electricity to the hub. It will be a very visible manifestation of the Hub’s mission to provide education for the state,” he says. “Every car coming down Broadway will be able to see this going on.”
Both Halter and Innovation Hub Executive Director Dr. Chris Jones emphasized the value that the solar project would bring to the Innovation Hub. As well as providing a source of renewable energy, Halter and Jones say that the project meshes with the Hub’s educational mission to explore innovation, as well as promoting entrepreneurship and environmental awareness.
“On rare occasions, our organization gets to accomplish multiple objectives with one project. Partnering with Scenic Hill Solar on our Solar Power Plant Project is one such occasion,” Jones said in a statement. “Through this project we will: save a significant amount of money; introduce cutting edge technology; measurably improve our environmental stewardship; develop new educational and workforce development programs. This project will serve as a model for the state, and the nation, on how a community based solar project can lead to greatly improved education, workforce, entrepreneurial, and community engagement outcomes.”
The project was kicked off by the Innovation Hub, and Halter says his company was selected after a bidding process. Once selected, the Hub and Scenic Hill Solar developed the designs and plans for the solar plant. However, there is more work to be done before the electricity starts flowing. “There’s been a lot of good collaboration with the client, but nothing like what it will be like as it moves forward,” Halter says.
Before construction can begin, Scenic Hill Solar and the Innovation Hub must obtain necessary regulatory approvals and finalize all elements of the system’s design. As the solar project is a “straightforward” construction, Halter expects the Innovation Hub to be generating electricity from the solar plant by the end of 2020.