Solar power

Bearden School Board members throw a symbolic switch to energize the district's solar power grid.

The solar power industry continues to glow in South Arkansas with the commissioning this week of a new array for the Bearden School District, and a groundbreaking for a facility in Star City.

Officials say the Bearden School District solar project was designed to offset the energy use of the campus and save about $25,000 a year.

The 1,140-panel system is capable of producing over 720,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually.

Doris Parham, Bearden School Board president, praised Superintendent Denny Rozenberg’s work with Ouachita Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power to bring the project online.

“This is a great opportunity for our school district. All of us on the school board applaud Denny’s vision to get this project off of the ground, and for us to become the first school district in South Arkansas to become solar powered,” Parham said.

The Bearden School District reached out to their local utility, Ouachita Electric Cooperative (OECC), seeking a solution to lower energy bills.

“Cost savings for the 20-year contract will be approximately $500,000 for the district. Savings are being achieved simultaneously while the district is reducing our carbon footprint,” said Rozenberg.

“From the point of our joint contract signing with South Central Service Cooperative, to this point, where we are ready to start generating solar power, the process has been very smooth. The whole team of Today's Power has been professional and reliable to work with.”

North Little Rock's Today's Power, Inc. and the Bearden district have a 20-year power purchasing agreement for the electricity from the array.

Today’s Power, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., also broke ground Thursday with the Star City School District and Yorktown Water Association for two solar projects.

Together, the two solar projects will cover about 12 acres of land, both owned by TPI, and all energy generated by the two arrays will be sold under a 20-year agreement with the district and Yorktown Water.

The SCSD array will be a 1-megawatt (MW) single-axis tracking array, and it is expected to save SCSD by generating approximately 1,970,000 kWh in the first year -- approximately 75 percent of its electricity. C&L Electric Cooperative will provide the remaining 25 percent of the energy needs of the district.

The SCSD solar project started with the district launching a request for proposal (RFP), and after the full RFP process was completed, the contract was awarded to TPI.

According to SCSD Superintendent Jordan Frizzell, "The Star City School District is proud to be a part of this project. We want to find innovative ways to take care of our environment while being fiscally responsible. As a pillar in the Star City community, being able to find ways to produce clean, renewable energy for our district is a great opportunity that benefits everyone."

The Yorktown Water Association solar system will be 500 kW in size and will also use single-axis tracking technology. Like the SCSD project, YWA's system has been sized to provide 64 percent of the association's energy needs and will generate 1,014,000 kWh in the first year of operation.

This project started when the manager of YWA, Jody Hibbard, reached out to C&L Electric Cooperative searching for a solar solution and was led to TPI.

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