Pulaski County’s green energy and efficiency push took the spotlight Thursday in Little Rock, where Today’s Power Inc. of Little Rock is building $13.6 million in solar installations to provide 8 megawatts of low-priced electricity to power county operations.
County Judge Barry Hyde also announced other environmental projects at a news conference, including a plan to use recycled automobile tires in an asphalt mix to pave Lawson Road west of Little Rock.
Under the solar deal, TPI will build and own the solar array and sell the power to the county for 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour over 20 years, Today’s Power representative Jennah Denney told Arkansas Business. That rate compares to a 7.4-cent rate the county has been paying to Entergy Arkansas, the electric utility, Hyde said.
The low-cost power is expected to save the county $150,000 in its first year. The county government, with 14 buildings and 800,000 SF of space, uses about 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, officials said, and before efficiency improvements was paying Entergy about $1.2 million a year in electric bills. That total has come down to about $800,000 to $1 million a year, officials said Thursday.
The new arrays, to be built on 40 acres at the Port of Little Rock and 12 acres near the county justice center on Roosevelt Road in Little Rock, are expected to begin operation early next year.
“This project will not only improve the eco-health of our county, it will save taxpayers money and add value to the ever-expanding Little Rock Port as well,” Hyde said. He expects taxpayers to save at least $3 million over the life of the solar agreement, and construction will begin any day.
The project reflects a boom in work by independent solar contractors serving government and non-taxed entities, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association Director Katie Laning Niebaum told Arkansas Business. She provided a list of 17 projects matching that description, but said it’s incomplete.
“We’re seeing schools, governments and municipalities across the state considering and employing solar power for the first time,” she said. “When a small municipality like Eureka Springs looking to solar, all the way up to the state’s largest county government in the state, Pulaski County, you see the enhanced access to solar projects that Act 464 provided.”
The Arkansas Solar Access Act cleared the way for larger commercial solar arrays, third-party leasing and energy sales deals between contractors and government and untaxed entities.
Today’s Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. Its president, Michael Henderson, also spoke at Thursday’s news conference, calling solar a good deal for Pulaski County’s taxpayers.
“They are just going to buy less from the traditional utility and buy more from a project that is designed for them, it’s on their property, it brings tax base into their school district,” he said.