Stone Creek Solar of Jonesboro has joined the wave of sun energy teams seeding the education and public entities market, announcing a 766-kilowatt array for the Buffalo Island Central School District in nearby Monette.
Stone Creek will build, operate and own the 2,200 photovoltaic panels in tidy rows on 4.5 acres adjacent to the school, which will receive a low rate in a power-purchase agreement. The plant, expected to be the largest solar unit for an Arkansas school system so far, is projected to offset 95% of the district's electricity needs for 25 years, at a savings of at least $500,000, according to Superintendent of Schools Gaylon Taylor.
"Over the past few years, Buffalo Island School District has implemented several energy savings measures for our new building projects," Taylor said in a statement. "Partnering with Stone Creek Solar on this 766-kw solar generating facility is just the right step to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible over the next 25 years."
Taylor said the school system has an option to buy the array over the course of the agreement, a prospect that could save the district more than $1.2 million.
The solar plant also offers students an environmental lesson, the superintendent said.
"The power produced from this plant over the next 25 years will lessen the school's carbon footprint equivalent to planting 685,000 trees, or eliminating emissions of 28 million pounds of coal burned," Taylor said.
The superintendent praised Stone Creek, owned by John Sawyer, for their efficiency, calling the deal "quite simple."
"The team located land adjacent to the school, designed and engineered a system that will fit our needs, and offered to own and operate the system for us. The only thing the school is responsible for is paying less" for its power, he said.
Sawyer told Arkansas Business in an email that a private investor, Canera LLC, owned by Mickey Seeman, will finance the land and the solar project.
"The school has entered a service contract with Mr. Seeman that will allow them to use all the power from the solar array to offset their current utility expenses," Sawyer said. "The school has the option to purchase the system and the land throughout the 20-year service agreement."