Sun Also Rises at Central Arkansas Library System


Sun Also Rises at Central Arkansas Library System
Nate Coulter, executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System (Jason Burt)

Central Arkansas Library System Executive Director Nate Coulter is a bit puzzled on why nobody’s reported it before, but Whispers is happy to break his news that Entegrity of Little Rock is building a solar array to provide electricity and savings of a million dollars over 25 years.

The deal, first discussed by the library’s board a year ago and given the go-ahead in a public Zoom meeting in July, takes advantage of a key 2020 Arkansas Public Service Commission ruling upholding favorable rates for crediting solar power that rooftop arrays and solar farms put onto the grid under the state’s net-metering policy.

Entegrity had already built a 66kW solar array at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center in midtown Little Rock. That array is owned by the library, Coulter said.

The deal calls for Entegrity to build and own a 1-megawatt array near Clinton National Airport, officials told Whispers. “It will be co-located with the Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority’s solar array,” said Adam Ness, Entegrity’s organizational coordinator. “LRWRA’s array will be going to the PSC for approval in the next couple of weeks. The CALS array does not need PSC approval.”

Hailed as the largest solar project in Little Rock’s city limits, the array is set for a groundbreaking in late spring or early summer, Ness said. It is expected to be completed this year.

Coulter said the library system has options to purchase the array at various intervals. “We also looked at putting a bunch of solar panels atop the Main Library but that didn’t prove feasible for a variety of reasons,” he said.

The board came to favor a long deal with Entegrity “that calls for that company to own the solar farm and we buy the electricity it generates,” Coulter said.

Even though its project doesn’t require PSC approval, Coulter said CALS will “have to submit something to Entergy to get the hookup authorized.”

The library system “hired engineers and lawyers to consult with us for months and had waited to see what the PSC would do” on net-metering rates, which until last year had been under review for more than four years.

“When they [PSC commissioners] issued a ruling in that long-standing docket on solar, and it assured us we’d get the 1:1 net-metering credit, we acted.”

The only significant risk the library board discussed, according to minutes of its meetings, was the prospect of electricity costs dropping sharply sometime during the term of the contract. That kind of turn would defy recent history, and the risk seemed clearly worth taking, Coulter said.