Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power Inc. of North Little Rock dedicated a 2.7-megawatt solar energy plant in Lincoln on Friday.
The station will have about 7 megawatts of energy storage. It will serve the city of Springdale, Elkins Public Schools, Lincoln Public Schools, the city of Lincoln and OzarksGo, a telecommunications subsidiary of the electric cooperative.
The project, called Ozarks Natural Energy solar park, will allow the cities, schools and OzarksGo to reap an electric power bargain through a third-party leasing mechanism and integrated land acquisition. The participation of Today’s Power, which built and owns the solar array, allowed Ozarks Electric to optimize its grid and substations by placing the solar park in an area where it can assist in load management, according to a news release from the cooperative and Today’s Power.
The solar array is expected to save the participating entities a combined $3 million over 20 years.
Mayor Doug Sprouse of Springdale called the arrangement a “cost-effective solution that lets us participate in renewable energy” and a way “to be good stewards of what we have been given.” The city benefited from new laws that allowed non-taxed entities to benefit from solar power, the mayor said. Each participant in the solar park will have separate meters, and energy savings will be credited to each through the solar power service agreement.
Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks Electric, said in the release that the cooperative is able to “offer these types of solutions working with preferred vendors like Today’s Power.”
Today’s Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. of Little Rock, the Little Rock utility service cooperative owned by the state’s 17 electric distribution cooperatives.
Elkins School Superintendent Jeremy Mangrum said his district would save $50,000 to $60,000 a year. “This partnership will be great for our district,” he said, calling the school system’s participation a “great investment.” Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Spears noted that the schools also plan to use the solar park as a learning tool.
Steve Bandy, general manager of OzarksGo, expressed pride in a growing network of sustainable power initiatives.
“This project puts OzarksGo at the forefront of the telecommunications industry in utilizing renewable energy,” Bandy said in a statement. “The project also creates additional cost savings to aid in providing low-cost internet, television and phone services to our customers.”