County Judge Barry Hyde flipped the switch on a new 756-panel solar project Tuesday at the Pulaski County Detention Center near the State Fairgrounds in Little Rock, and Today’s Power Inc. joined him in basking in the glow.
The project, a 250-kilowatt array that will be owned and operated by Today’s Power, will provide lower-cost electricity to the county under a 20-year power purchase agreement. The price is a guaranteed 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour, roughly half of the already low retail price of electricity in the state.
The array is one of two county projects, originally planned in 2019, that combined will provide about 86% of Pulaski County’s existing electricity demand.
Pulaski County owns 14 buildings totaling more than 800,000 SF, including the largest county jail in Arkansas. Using about 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, the county government spends roughly $1.2 million on power annually, County Attorney Adam Fogleman told Arkansas Business in 2016, when the county began to explore solar options.
“Pulaski County led the effort to open access for nonprofits and counties to use reliable, renewable energy in 2019, and now we are proud to have ‘flipped the switch’ on a solar array dedicated to Pulaski County’s use,” Hyde said in comments at the dedication ceremony, adding that the project would save county taxpayers considerable amounts.
The county chose Today’s Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. of Little Rock, to partner in the project in 2019. “Those savings will allow us to divert funds to more impactful services such as youth services, emergency management or public works. This is the right thing to do, environmentally and financially.”
Work on the system began in late 2020 and was completed this month as all regulatory and utility approvals were issued.
"Through technology and partnership, this project exemplifies a forward-thinking approach to meeting Pulaski County's future needs,” TPI President Michael Henderson said, praising Hyde’s foresight.
Today’s Power Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator Jennah Denney said the new solar plant, on the grounds of the Pulaski County Dentention Center, will save the county at least $150,000 in its first year.
The second phase of the county’s solar adventure will be another project with Today’s Power, a 4.6-megawatt fixed-tilt solar array at the Little Rock Port Authority Industrial Park, a plan currently under review by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, the state’s utility regulator. With that approval, the array is expected to be completed later this year, officials said.
The solar projects were enabled by Act 464 of 2019, in which state lawmakers gave governmental entities the ability to net meter renewable energy purchased from a private producer. This arrangement reduces costs, in part by preserving federal tax incentives available for investments in power-producing solar facilities, and has been credited by solar executives with spurring hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of solar development by local governments, schools and nonprofits.