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Searcy Water Utilities Joins Solar Parade

2 min read

Searcy is Arkansas’ latest municipality mixing water and sunshine, partnering with Entegrity of Little Rock in a 5.7-megawatt solar power project to fully offset power consumption by Searcy Water Utilities.

Other major solar projects involving city water or wastewater facilities are developing in Clarksville and Fayetteville. Scenic Hill Solar of Little Rock developed a 6.5-megawatt array and a 2.86-megawatt expansion for Clarksville Connected Utilities, and Today’s Power Inc. of Little Rock has a deal with the city of Fayetteville to put 10-megawatts of solar production, as well as battery storage, at two wastewater treatment sites.

The Searcy project, also planned for two locations, is projected to save $7 million over the lifetime of the project. The agreement’s terms call for Entegrity to build, own and operate the solar installations, including a 1.2-megawatt array at the city’s wastewater plant and a 4.5-megawatt array at an off-site location.

Solar was the obvious next step for a utility that had already embraced efficiency and conservation to keep water and sewer rates low for Searcy residents, said Dan Dawson, the utility’s general manager. LED lighting and variable-frequency drives in motors had already proven effective when Dawson sought out solar proposals from vendors.

He chose Entegrity, which spent months presenting him with options on system size, location and financing options. Last week, the Searcy Board of Public Utilities approved the final agreement. Entegrity said it will be the largest solar installation yet under Arkansas Solar Access Act of 2019.

“Over the past year, we have done our due diligence and have concluded that a solar agreement with Entegrity will greatly benefit our customers by allowing us to reduce costs on electricity,” Dawson said. “These savings allow us to invest more into our system without increasing water rates. Keeping water and sewer rates low helps bring jobs to Searcy.”

The energy generated would be enough to power about 800 homes, said the utility, which has been owned by the city since 1948.

Entegrity Water Division Director Sam Selig told Arkansas Business that any project involving more than 1 megawatt of capacity must gain approval from the state Public Service Commission. He praised Searcy officials for their foresight, saying that by partnering with Entegrity, a private business that can utilize federal tax credits, Searcy lowered the cost of the project significantly. “Once the utility understood the transaction, the decision really became a no-brainer,” Selig said.

“This project is going to put us in a better financial position,” Dawson said. “Just as important, it goes to show that Searcy, Arkansas, is continuously improving.”

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