Entegrity of Little Rock and top state officials are trumpeting big solar energy savings for the state’s prison system, further projects for the Arkansas Department of Corrections and a victory in Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s crusade for streamlining government operations and costs.
Entegrity partner Matthew Bell also sees phase two of the firm’s work for the prison system as affirmation of a performance-contracting approach to offering solar and efficiency upgrades pioneered by the state legislature in 2013 and extended by the Solar Access Act of 2019.
After beating its own guarantees for cost savings under a 2017 project of solar generation, LED lighting, HVAC upgrades, composting and water conservation, Entegrity will extend those conversions to other prison facilities and build two more solar farms, pending approval by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. After the second phase, the state expects its savings to top $3.2 million a year.
“This is a state agency, the largest energy user from a state perspective, and these savings are significant from the standpoint of state legislation, and from the governor’s standpoint,” Bell told Arkansas Business. Noting utility industry resistance to some aspects of the state’s renewable energy policies, Bell said that state agencies saving taxpayer money through his contracting model “sort of blunts a lot of those arguments from the utility side. We’ve exceeded state savings goals for the product we finished, and this new solar project combined with all the efficiency measures are going to save quite a bit of money.
Hutchinson, the Republican governor, is on the bandwagon.
“Since taking office six years ago, my administration has taken steps to transform Arkansas’ state government to become more streamlined and cost-efficient,” the governor stated. “The latest project from the now consolidated Department of Corrections is exactly the type of transformation we hoped to see.”
State Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves said in a statement that the state is eager to save with Entegrity’s second-phase plan, which includes a 6.5-megawatt solar services deal with the Division of Correction and a 2.5-megawatt array for the Division of Community Correction.
The services agreement, which involves no debt to the agencies, will replace 4,800 light fixtures with tamper-resistant LED models, expected to cut costs 60%, and install 2,300 smart water fixtures, an expected water and sewer savings of 35%. Composting equipment and HVAC tune-ups and replacements are set to save $100,000 a year in operating costs.
Graves called the project “one of many steps we will take in the coming year to improve our outcomes and do our part to continue the transformation of state government.”
In the 2017 project, Entegrity converted more than 17,000 light fixtures to LED, initiated composting and did comprehensive heating-and-air and conservation upgrades. Phase one also involved 300-kilowatt solar arrays at the Division of Correction’s East Arkansas Regional Unit and its Osceola facility.
The Department of Corrections commands roughly 6% of the state’s annual budget, amplifying the importance of savings, Bell said. meaning any opportunity for savings is hugely beneficial to taxpayers.
The Arkansas General Assembly created the Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting through legislation in 2013, allowing state agencies to participate in agreements in which a project’s annual energy and maintenance savings are sufficient to fully cover the cost of the work over a specified term.
Those savings are guaranteed, Graves noted.
“This will result in improved delivery of services and will ultimately save the state and taxpayers money by allowing the department to reallocate savings to meet other capital needs,” Graves said in remarks on the milestone. “I want to thank Governor Hutchinson, the General Assembly, and E&E for giving us the opportunity to improve our facilities with the AEPC program,” he said, referring to the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment’s Office of Energy, which oversees the AEPC program.
Becky Keogh, E&E Cabinet Secretary, said the program “promotes efficiency in state government, having guaranteed Arkansas taxpayers nearly $500 million in savings since 2013.”
Phase 1 by Entegrity, one of Little Rock’s leading energy services companies, focused on the Division of Correction’s East Arkansas Regional Unit in Brickeys and Delta Regional Unit in Dermott, as well as the Division of Community Correction’s correctional centers in Texarkana, Little Rock, Osceola, Fayetteville, Malvern and West Memphis.
Since completion, Entegrity and state officials say, the first phase has exceeded the $1.1 million in savings guaranteed by Entegrity to the Division of Correction and the $612,000 guaranteed to the Division of Community Correction. The projects not only paid for themselves, but also redirected funds back into the agency’s budget, Entegrity said.
The new phase will include work at the system’s Tucker Unit, Tucker Max Unit and Tucker Re-Entry Center as well as the solar projects for both divisions.
Entegrity founding partner Chris Ladner said the work will improve performance, reduce waste and “create numerous short-term and long-term benefits that will benefit the agency and its facilities for decades to come.”
The work will begin in January and is expected to be complete by early 2022.