Continuing a string of utility-scale solar energy projects in South Arkansas, Today's Power Inc. of Little Rock broke ground on a one-megawatt solar electricity array Friday between Crossett and Fountain Hill in Ashley County.
The solar farm, which will supply energy to Ashley-Chicot Electric Cooperative Inc. through a service agreement, will include 3,888 photovoltaic panels and a sun-tracking system to orient them. The site covers about eight acres behind an existing ACEC distribution substation off Arkansas 133 and will be visible to motorists, according to ACEC General Manager Rodney Chapman.
The system will provide enough electricity to power about 135 homes at peak production — about 1.4 megawatts of direct current installed and one megawatt of inverted alternating current.
"It's an exciting thing for the area, and especially for the schools," Chapman told Arkansas Business in a telephone interview. "It's just a different type of energy source than what usually comes down the line. Most sources can't be seen, but this will be something people can look at from the highway."
Chapman said the co-op board and management are excited to bring utility-scale solar to the area, and emphasized that the power will be used locally. "It will allow us to avoid a portion of our power demand charges while delivering clean, renewable power."
The groundbreaking came only days after Gov. Asa Hutchinson commissioned the state's largest solar array a $100 million colossus of 350,000 panels on 475 acres outside Stuttgart. That system has an 81-megawatt capacity.
Today's Power has specialized in smaller utility-scale solar projects for the state's electric co-ops and industries like Husqvarna, the power tool maker that had TPI install a 1.3-megawatt system at its injection molding plant in Nashville (Howard County) last year.
While Today's Power would not estimate the project's value, company President Michael Henderson said that Ashley-Chicot had emphasized that its members had to reap economic as well as environmental benefits from the solar array.
"We are excited to work with Ashley-Chicot Electric Cooperative as it serves its members," Henderson said in a news release. "We enjoy working with electric cooperatives because their goal is to help improve the quality of life of their members. This solar system will be among the most technologically advanced in the country."
The Ashley-Chicot Co-op serves about 6,000 meters in Ashley, Chicot and Union Counties in Arkansas, as well as Morehouse Parish in north Louisiana.
Today's Power completed projects for First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville and Ouachita Electric Cooperative in 2017, as well as commercial projects for Husqvarna, Tyson Foods and South Arkansas Telephone Co. So far in 2018, it has engineered and designed four utility-scale solar projects and one commercial project as well as the Ashley-Chicot array, according to Jennah Denney, a company representative.