by Lydia McAllister
Clarksville Light & Water Company (CLW) in Clarksville is looking toward the future by investing in the present. CLW, together with Scenic Hill Solar, constructed an $11 million 6.5 MW-DC and 5.3 MW-AC solar power plant.
Clarksville is one of just 14 cities in the state that own and operate an electric utility. CLW’s power supply is comprised of energy from four providers, (hydropower, wind power, landfill gas and, most recently, solar), and when wet conditions exist, more than 50 percent of its power could be considered renewable.
CLW has been serving the community since 1913. Today, it has approximately 4,500 residential customers and serves a population of just under 10,000. The company currently provides electric, water, wastewater and broadband service to Clarksville on a retail level, as well as water on a wholesale level to eight other cities and water districts in and around Southern Johnson County.
The electric utility came about in early 2017, when Little Rock-based Scenic Hill Solar partnered with CLW to construct the solar power plant. Scenic Hill Solar is a solar developer providing commercial, industrial, government and utility clients clean electricity, reduced energy prices and long-term electricity price certainty by developing client-specific solar energy plans. Scenic Hill Solar is led by CEO and former Arkansas lieutenant governor Bill Halter.
“We are delighted by the leadership and foresight of our partner, CLW,” Halter said. “This leading-edge project proves that electric utilities can simultaneously lower cost for their customers, provide clean and sustainable energy and provide economic development for their communities. CLW is leading the way into the 21st-century economy for their community.”
CLW is the only energy taker from the 42-acre site located along I-40 near exit 55. The power plant has over 20,000 solar modules that utilize a single-axis tracking system to follow the sun and maximize power production.
At the time of construction, it was the third-largest solar power plant in the state and the largest municipal solar project in Arkansas. The project is an excellent example of a public-private partnership in that both parties worked together to improve the experience of Clarksville power customers.
From a numbers perspective, the plant will produce over 11,000 kW of electricity in the first year of operation. It will produce enough clean electricity to satisfy more than 25 percent of Clarksville’s residential electricity consumption. It will reduce carbon emissions by more than 215,000 metric tons, which is the equivalent of driving more than 516 million fewer passenger car miles or eliminating the burning of more than 229 million pounds of coal or planting more than 5.5 million trees.
“The effort is designed to position Clarksville as a town with the quality of life of a small town, but one that can think and do big things,” said CLW General Manager John Lester. “We are delighted that this project will save our customers approximately $500,000 annually while growing our existing renewable generation supply portfolio with what will be our first locally based power generation resource.”
With the success of the plant, which has been in full commercial operation since Dec. 23, 2017, talks of building a second power plant may be on the horizon. In the meantime, CLW has built a fiber optic network for Clarksville utilities, giving the community another leg up in the changing landscape of the 21st century.