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Fayetteville, Others Race for Solar Savings

3 min read

The city of Fayetteville is looking to save money on its electric bill, and it’s in a hurry to have solar power project plans in place with Entegrity of Little Rock by the end of September.

What’s the rush? New state rules on net metering, which gives solar users a retail-rate credit for the excess power they add to the grid, will be changing on Oct. 1.

Utility customers who put in solar systems after Oct. 1 will get a wholesale-rate credit, about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour as opposed to a retail average above 10 cents. The reduced rate will make a big difference to homeowners, businesses and entities like cities, counties and schools because it will essentially cut their return on investment for solar systems in half.

The new solar array, which will combine with two existing city solar installations already serving Fayetteville’s two wastewater treatment plants, will be owned by Entegrity.

The green energy and efficiency company will sell all the power the new array creates to the city at a lower rate than it is now charged by Southwestern Electric Power Co. of Shreveport. Swepco, a subsidiary of American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio, serves about 125,000 power meters in western Arkansas.

The third array, which the city expects to bring its green energy capacity to 90% of electricity used in city operations, won’t necessarily be in Fayetteville. Under current rules, it could be built in any area served by Swepco. A site has been selected in the Arkansas River Valley, but Entegrity was cautious about revealing exactly where it is.

Over the 25 years of the agreement with Entegrity, the city could save $7 million on electricity, Fayetteville Public Works Director Chris Brown said.

Flint Richter, business development executive for Entegrity, said the Fayetteville City Council approved the project just before Christmas.

“We have approval to move forward with the project,” Richter said from Colorado, where he was finishing up a holiday vacation. “It’s going to be a 3.7-megawatt DC project. It will bring $160,000 in savings in the first year, and isolate Fayetteville from utility escalation somewhat. It will also help them reach their green energy goals. I’m really proud to be working on this project and helping Fayetteville reach their goals.”

The agreement gives the city an option of buying the array after seven, 14 or 21 years, and the deal can be extended for up to 10 additional years.

The Fayetteville project is one of several municipal and county solar endeavors timed to beat this fall’s net-metering deadline. Pulaski County dedicated a 4.7-megawatt sun array on Dec. 11 at the Little Rock Port Authority Industrial Park.

The array, built by Today’s Power Inc. of North Little Rock, will supplement an existing solar facility at the Pulaski County Detention Center off Roosevelt Road in Little Rock. That facility began supplying electricity in April 2021, and together the two facilities “will supply approximately 90% of the County’s electric needs with clean, renewable power,” County Judge Barry Hyde said in a statement.

The county’s solar services deal with TPI, which will build, own and operate the array, will cost county taxpayers nothing, Hyde said in a news release. The 25-year agreement calls for the county to buy all the power the two sites generate, and Hyde expects it to save the county $250,000 a year compared with what it pays now for electricity.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to better serve Pulaski County residents, while saving taxpayer dollars,” Hyde said. “Solar checks all the boxes.”

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