The groundbreaking of Arkansas’ largest solar power system on municipal land marks the start of increasing opportunities to the city of Fayetteville as the project is expected to save the city of Fayetteville $6 million over 20 years. The City of Fayetteville is collaborating with Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power Inc. to raise clean energy consumption by city facilities from 16 percent to 72 percent, according to Susan Norton, the city’s Director of Communication and Marketing.
The project began when Ozarks Electric found an opportunity to work with one of the largest retail clients, the city of Fayetteville, as their goals coincided.The project is made up of three separate systems and will operate on Fayetteville’s two water treatment facility properties, which are the city’s overall largest electricity consuming accounts. The single axis tracking system follows the sun, which creates more energy density and creates more kilowatt hour production and more demand reduction for the city of Fayetteville’s waste water facility treatment, as well as the members of Electric Cooperative, according to Jennah Denney, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator of Today’s Power.
“What we are always doing is looking at our core values and at bringing electricity to our members in the most affordable and reliable prices. We are looking at alternatives, where solar is one of those,” says Erin Rogers, Manager of Marketing and Communications of Ozark Electric Cooperative.
The project models the best collaborative approach to meeting the needs of the future through innovation and partnership and will provide cost-effective energy security for the City of Fayetteville while also protecting the environment of Northwest Arkansas, according to Norton. “In response to the installation of the solar array, the city is now able to act on the commitment to combat climate change by supporting a low-carbon economy and creating good jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Norton said.
The project is expected to move the city even closer to several of their goals from the Energy Action Plan adopted by the City Council last year. “Due to the cost savings and return on investment anticipated, solar is evolving as a new standard and could become more prevalent among municipalities,” Norton said.
The state of Arkansas has already created many jobs with solar, renewable energy, according to Denney.
“I think it just excites everybody in that area, and we are seeing schools including solar into their curriculum, so it is a ripple effect.” Through the inspiration of the project, Ozark Electric Cooperative brought a series of innovation to the state of Arkansas. “They chose Today’s Power as their partner to accomplish that, but this wouldn’t be possible without them and the city of Fayetteville’s leadership and their city of council who voted unanimously to install this solar storage project,” Denney said.
The project broke ground March 4, and it is expected to be completed by the fall of 2019. As officials of the city create opportunity with the savings, they hope to accomplish the goals that their citizens are asking for.The goal of the project is to ensure that residents and future generations are able to inherit a clean planet, and officials of the city hope tohave 100 percent clean energy by the year of 2030 in the most cost-efficient way. “Mayor Lionel Jordan has received nothing but overwhelming support for the solar panel project,” Norton said.
“When we suggested using these targets for our Energy Action Plan, we were encouraged by community stakeholders to move ahead, and the solar array is just one step in the process.”