Two North Little Rock solar design and installation companies announced major projects early this month, with Scenic Hill Solar revealing plans for an 850-kilowatt sun power plant for North Little Rock Wastewater Utility, and Seal Solar detailing plans to make Associates Physical Therapy of Little Rock the state’s first solar-powered medical facility.
Scenic Hill, led by former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, will install, operate and own a single-axis solar power system for North Little Rock Wastewater, a model designed to provide about 20% of the utility’s electricity needs. And Halter said the 2,000-panel project would result in more than $1 million in economic development.
The news on that development was broken by Arkansas Times, with senior editor Max Brantley saying such deals have become more common but could be hindered by a pending ruling by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which will determine what net-metering rates are paid to utility customers creating their own renewable power. The current rate is equal to utility retail rates paid by customers, but the utilities say the one-to-one rate forces them to pay more for customer-created solar power than they do for power from other sources. That, the utilities argue, lets solar customers skirt paying their fair share of grid infrastructure costs.
Renewable power advocates say clean energy creates a net benefit to utilities and the public, and argue that cutting the net-metering rate will cripple renewable power adoption and the solar installation industry in Arkansas.
A ruling on the question, which has been simmering for years, is expected in coming weeks.
“We continuously look for ways to save our ratepayers money and improve our environmental stewardship,” said Buck Mathews, chairman of the North Little Rock Wastewater Utility, said in a statement. “This project accomplishes both those missions as well as local economic development. We are excited to push this project forward.”
Halter praised the partnership with NLR Wastewater and said the project “demonstrates that businesses and government entities can simultaneously save budget resources, improve our environment, and stimulate local economic development through the deployment of solar power.”
Construction will begin after governmental approvals are received, and the plant should be generating electricity by late this year, Halter said.
Associates Physical Therapy, on Aldersgate Road off Kanis, will offset nearly 85% of its electricity needs with the 75-panel, 30,000-kilowatt array to go on the roof. The company expects to save $185,000 on its total energy bill over the next 30 years.
“We’re focused on equipping our patients with the techniques they need to find sustainable pain management and resolution,” said Nathan Tumlison, APT’s president and founder. “Our decision to go solar was no different. This array gives us the power we need to achieve long-term energy independence.”
Associates PT is an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinic specializing in treatment of the spine.
“When you go solar, you gain control,” said Josh Davenport, Seal Solar’s co-founder and CEO. “Seal Solar is proud to help empower Arkansas businesses like Associates Physical Therapy to be good stewards of their resources.”