By CHRIS HICKEY
A utility that serves about 4,500 commercial, industrial and household customers in Clarksville is partnering with a Little Rock-based solar energy developer to provide about a quarter of that city’s electricity.
The Clarksville Light & Water Company announced its 30-year power purchase agreement with Scenic Hill Solar on Thursday. A solar array will be constructed on about 40 acres of land owned by the city utility. John Lester is the General Manager of Clarksville Light & Water.
“We can position ourselves better for economic development and growth for business entities that are interested in sustainability. I see it as a growing trend. Arkansas is blessed with plenty of sun. We’re not blessed with a lot of wind, as opposed to Oklahoma or Texas or Kansas. So from renewable perspective, solar absolutely makes the most sense,” Lester says.
Lester and Scenic Hill Solar CEO Bill Halter say the agreement will save Clarksville customers about $500,000 annually. Halter, a former Arkansas lieutenant governor, says the 30-year agreement demonstrates the certainty that comes with solar power.
“There are very small operating costs for these solar power plants and there are no fuel costs, as contrasted with natural gas-fired plants or coal that have had very volatile fuel prices,” Halter says.
Scenic Hills will own, construct and operate the plant, to contain about 20,000 solar modules, on land the utility leases. According to a press release, the agreement would create Arkansas’s third largest solar power plant and the largest solar plant operated by one of the state’s municipal utilities. The press release also says the plant will produce more than 11,000,000 kWh of electricity in its first year of operation.
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