Today’s Power Inc. and Ozarks Electric Cooperative of Fayetteville broke ground Wednesday on a solar and battery storage project near Sonora Middle School in Springdale that is expected to save the Springdale School District $2.6 million over the 25-year term of a power-purchase agreement.
The 2.38-megawatt solar array will be connected to a 6.9-megawatt battery unit that will be used by Ozarks Electric, benefiting the cooperative’s members. Company and school officials who spoke at the ceremony Wednesday said the project will offset roughly 95% of the total energy consumed by three campuses: The Don Tyson School of Innovation, Sonora Middle School and Sonora Elementary School.
Construction is expected to begin in earnest later this month, and the project completion date is projected in the second quarter of this year. Today’s Power of North Little Rock, which has built solar power stations for most of the state’s power distribution cooperatives, will install, own and operate the Springdale array while the school district buys its energy.
"Working with the local schools to improve their renewable energy portfolio aligns perfectly with our mission and values," Ozarks Electric President and CEO Mitchell Johnson said in a statement. "This is just one example of how we seek new solutions for our members in an effort to provide more sustainable and energy-efficient services."
Springdale Schools Superintendent Jared Cleveland thanked Johnson for connecting the school system with Today’s Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., the Little Rock utility service cooperative.
"This partnership positions Springdale Schools to be on the cutting edge of fiscal responsibility, technology and clean energy for public schools," Cleveland said in a news release. “The district is proud of this partnership and for our School Board's continued leadership toward responsible energy consumption for our buildings."
The battery storage capacity is expected to reduce Ozark Electric’s wholesale power demand costs, and Johnson said the co-op has realized such savings from solar and storage projects with Today’s Power, including a system for the city of Fayetteville and the Ozarks Multi-Industry Solar Park near Lincoln (Washington County).
“Strategic placement and utilization of battery storage through the trilateral partnership of Springdale Schools, Today’s Power and Ozarks Electric creates an opportunity to save approximately $2.3 million for our members over the next 25 years,” Johnson said.
Derek Dyson, the new CEO and president of Today’s Power, said the project will serve the cooperative’s reliability needs while “also lowering the energy cost of both Ozarks Electric and Springdale Public Schools.”
Ozarks Electric serves nearly 80,000 meters in nine counties in northwest Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma.
The Springdale school system has 31 campuses and about 23,000 students in pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.