Northeast Arkansas has been inundated with rain this week, but officials at Craighead Electric Cooperative Corp. were looking for the sun Friday as they announced plans to build a one-megawatt solar array in Brookland, just northeast of the city.
CEC has reached an agreement with Today's Power Inc. of Little Rock to build the power plant, which is expected to provide enough electricity to run about 135 homes at peak production. The 3,888-panel project was described by TPP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., as one of the most advanced in the state and will cover six acres or more of a 13-acre land parcel. Parts of the site not covered by panels will be planted in wildflowers and native warm-season grasses by the Northeast Arkansas Chapter of Quail Forever, a group dedicated to the conservation of quail, pheasants and other wildlife.
The project, whose cost wasn't disclosed but is expected to surpass $1 million, will provide local generation for the cooperatives 30,000 members in Craighead, Crittenden, Greene, Independence, Lawrence, Poinsett, Randolph and Sharp counties. The effort is also close to the heart of TPI President Michael Henderson.
"I grew up on Craighead Electric's lines and am proud to be a part of ... offering affordable, safe and responsible energy to its members," said Henderson, who emphasized that members will reap economic as well as environmental benefits from the array. "CEC has proven they really want to improve the lives of their members by providing clean, low-cost renewable energy and helping provide internet services to their members who currently have no options."
The array is the 18th project developed by Today's Power in partnership of utility partnerships in Arkansas. "We have five more in the planning stage that will be announced soon," Henderson said. "Solar and storage is the future of cooperatives."
Craighead Electric chose Today's Power because it has demonstrated reliability with its projects for other cooperatives. "Partnering with local communities such as Brookland to bring utility-scale solar to our service territory... is just part of proving concern for community and more value" to cooperative members, Duncan said.
Brookland Mayor Kenneth Jones noted that his town is one of the fast-growing in Arkansas, rising from a population of 1,642 in the 2010 census to an estimated 3,100 people today.
"Having a cutting-edge renewable source of energy will enhance our ability to attract more retail businesses to Brookland," he predicted.