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Scenic Hill Breaking Solar Ground in Hot Springs, Stuttgart

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In a second major groundbreaking in a week, Scenic Hill Solar of North Little Rock will begin construction Thursday with a 1 p.m. ceremony for a long-awaited sun energy project for the city of Hot Springs.

The company, led by former Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, had already planned a 5 p.m. Wednesday groundbreaking for a project for the Stuttgart School District in Arkansas County.

The public-private partnerships comes on the heels of an important net-metering ruling by regulators that upheld the strong price for solar customers putting their excess energy back onto the electric grid.

That helped clear the way for $125 million in planned projects by Scenic Hill, Halter told Arkansas Business, including the projects taking shape in Hot Springs and Stuttgart.

The Hot Springs endeavor, announced in September, will build multiple power plants to provide electricity for the city, totaling 12.5 megawatts of direct-current power and 19 million kilowatt-hours per year. The groundbreaking will be at the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant on Winkler Road.

Bill Burrough, Hot Springs’ city manager, said the city is eager. “Not only are we able to further our Green Initiative through the construction of these solar plants, we are also able to infuse much-needed economic development directly into our local community,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to the completion of all these solar plants.”

The plants will include 31,000 solar modules, mounted on the ground and tilted.

Scenic Hill will build, own and operate the plants at several sites on land owned by the city, which in turn will buy the solar plants’ power through an energy services agreement. The project will cut the city’s power bill significantly and add $20 million in economic development to the area, Burrough said.

Halter, for his part, thanked Burrough and the city board for their “forward thinking.”

“With the approval of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, this project in total will be the largest completed to date for a municipality in the state of Arkansas,” Halter said. “As unemployment reaches an all-time high, this project is exactly the type of activity that will bring jobs… this is a win-win for the environment and economy and we are proud to work with the city of Hot Springs on these investments.”

The Stuttgart project, announced in January, is another public-private partnership. It calls for two photovoltaic arrays that will provide about 90% of the school system’s annual electricity use. The groundbreaking will be at a site a quarter-mile west of Highway 165 on D and N Road. The school district recently bought the property for the power plant to provide the district’s power needs in the Entergy Arkansas service territory, according to a news release.

“The array will be owned by Stuttgart School District, and Scenic Hill Solar will provide long-term operation and maintenance support under contract,” Halter said.

The solar project, involving 3,700 solar modules, will give Stuttgart a $2 million capital boost, he said.

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