The power turned on Thursday at the state’s largest solar installation, a 12MW solar plant in East Camden that will power 30 percent of the energy needs for defense contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne and supply low-cost energy to the state’s 550,000 rural electric customers.
The 76-acre solar field in the Highland Industrial Park consists of 151,200 solar panels, which are ground-mounted, single-axis tracking installations to maximize generating capacity. The field will produce more than 30 million KWH of electricity annually and 600 employees work on the site, according to a news release from the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association.
"We could not ask for a better partnership to bring the first large-scale solar energy facility to Arkansas," said Matt Kisber, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch Corp., the owner-operator of the facility. "Silicon Ranch echoes the importance of bringing renewable generation to rural America. This project should assist in additional positive economic impact for the Camden area while providing a reliable, low-cost energy source for Aerojet Rocketdyne and AECC."
The plant was completed in late 2015 and has undergone a series of tests to ensure its viability.
"We are proud to report the testing period that began at the end of November has produced zero power anomalies, and with the unusually sunny Arkansas winter we have been witness to the exciting potential solar has in Arkansas," said Gary Vaughan, Aerojet Rocketdyne director of production operations.
AAEA was an early advocate for the project and Silicon Solar Ranch is business member and Annual Innovator Sponsor of the Association. Aerojet Rocketdyne and the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives are the power purchasers for the project.
Mark Cayce, general manager and CEO of Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp., was a consistent supporter of the project.
“The fact that we can harvest the sun to make sure the quality of life in East Camden and South Arkansas is the best it can be is a chief motivator to complete this project,” Cayce said. “This is a sustainable energy resource that will benefit generations to come.”
The project is also a key element in Calhoun County’s competition for the Georgetown University Energy Prize. Calhoun County is among the 30 finalists competing for the prize which will be awarded next year to the community/utility partnership that demonstrates “innovative, replicable, scalable and continual reductions in the per capita energy consumed from local natural gas and electric utilities.”