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Phillips County Joins Government Solar Push

3 min read

Phillips County Judge Clark Hall is counting on solar power to save his county money and help shine its image.

The county has hired Entegrity Partners of Little Rock to build a 400-kilowatt photovoltaic array as part of its major new justice complex near Helena Regional Medical Center. The array will be “100% funded by utility cost savings and will provide the county a positive cash flow,” Hall said.

Officials at Entegrity, a veteran builder of solar arrays on government property, say they’re pleased to help Phillips become the first county in the state to use sun power to offset its electric bills.

The project is projected to yield more than $80,000 in utility savings a year for the county, more than $2 million over the 25-year lifespan of the project. “It’s an opportunity to generate our own energy and for Phillips County to help the environment in some small way,” Hall told Arkansas Business.

A former state lawmaker and mayor of Marvell, Hall said the project was a good fit for the county’s new jail project, in a converted John Deere farm implement property on the U.S. 49 bypass. “Saving $2 million for the taxpayers is always a good thing,” he said. “And putting this together with the new 100-bed detention facility is favorable; we’ve been without a county jail for five years.” (The former jail was closed for failing to meet standards.)

Groundbreaking on the solar project is expected in early summer, said Rick Vance, regional director for Entegrity. “We’re including some other energy efficiency measures,” he said, adding that the work, budgeted at about $1 million in all, should be finished by fall. “Also, the solar portion is being built for additional capacity,” Vance said. “If the county wants to add more panels in the future … they will be able to do that very easily. Smart move by the judge to do that now.”

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Entegrity has built solar arrays for Batesville’s schools, the city of Helena-West Helena and the Arkansas Department of Correction, among others. “This has most definitely caught on with local governments, and schools are also pursuing solar,” Vance said.

“The costs of solar have come way down over the last five years, and rising utility costs have made solar power an attractive financial proposition for public entities … In addition, the recently signed state Act 464 created additional solar options for public entities.”

The county judge also expects the justice complex and solar array to impress travelers crossing the Mississippi into Arkansas. “It’ll convey a good image to people coming through our town, and let visitors know we’re looking forward and making changes fit for the new millennium.”

Meanwhile, in Fayetteville

The Phillips County announcement coincided with a preview of the city of Fayetteville’s $23 million solar power and storage system, built at two municipal wastewater treatment sites by Today’s Power of Little Rock. The systems will power the wastewater plants, which gobble more electricity than any other city operations. Work on the projects, which will have 32,000 total solar panels, began in March. The system also includes the first power storage system in Arkansas, 24 megawatt hours’ worth, and will give Ozarks Electric Cooperative a source to draw from during peak use periods.

The full system is expected to raise the city’s renewable energy percentage from 16% to 72%, and save Fayetteville $6 million over 20 years. Today’s Power will own 99% of the system and 100% of the battery storage. The city will pay some $700,000 for infrastructure upgrades and expects to recoup its investment in four years through savings on power from the array.

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