by Talk Business and Politics Staff
Forrest City and North Little Rock-based solar power developer Scenic Hill Solar plan to build a 3.46-megawatt solar energy system for the eastern Arkansas city of 14,000 people.
The approximately $5 million system will include three solar plants and will be used to power 100% of the city’s governmental operations. Construction on the system will start after it receives governmental approval, and it is expected to be completed and start operating in late 2020. Scenic Hill Solar will own and operate the plants that will be built in and around Forrest City. Power will be provided to the city under a 28-year energy services agreement.
The project, as part of the Arkansas Energy Office’s Energy Performance Contracting program, also will include LED lighting upgrades at city buildings. Overall, the project is expected to save the city $100,000 annually, with more than 80% of the savings attributed to the solar plants. The plants will be built in the service territories of two electric utilities, which is a first for an Arkansas solar project, according to a news release.
“This is a very exciting cutting-edge venture for our Forrest City and the entire community,” said Forrest City Mayor Cedric Williams. “This project fits right in line with my vision of enhancing technological capacity while also finding ways to become more efficient with our citizens’ tax dollars along with investing in sustainable growth opportunities for our future. The project will also have a tremendous impact on our local economy while being constructed through both local employment and as construction workers will be staying in our hotels and eating at our local restaurants. Our partnership began earlier this year when the city selected Scenic Hill Solar through the Arkansas Energy Office as our preferred energy services provider.
“Scenic Hill Solar demonstrated the greatest ability to meet our needs and deliver savings to Forrest City. We are excited to collaborate on the solar development and to leverage this project to attract further economic activity to Forrest City.”
The project is expected to add more than $5 million to the Forrest City economy. The three plants will have more than 7,000 panels and use a single-axis tracking solar system. They will produce more than 5.88 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first year of operation and more than 164.24 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over the next 30 years. They are expected to reduce carbon emissions by over 115,952 metric tons, which is the equivalent of driving over 289 million fewer passenger vehicle miles or eliminating the burning of over 89 million pounds of coal or providing more than 17,000 homes with electricity for a year.
“We are delighted to partner with Forrest City on this transformative set of investments in renewable energy,” said Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar. “We commend Mayor Cedric Williams and the city council of Forrest City for moving forward with vision and boldness to provide renewable electricity, reduce total taxpayer spending on electricity, and stimulate local economic development through the construction of multiple power plants. This commitment to smart sustainability is a big reason for companies to look to Forrest City as a place to thrive. Scenic Hill Solar is excited to partner with the ‘Jewel of the Delta’ to deploy three solar power plants — the energy technology of the 21st century.”
Scenic Hill Solar also will build and manage a 4.8-megawatt solar plant for Bank OZK in central Arkansas. It will be the third-largest commercial solar facility dedicated to a private sector customer in Arkansas. The plant will provide electricity for the bank’s new corporate headquarters and up to 40 other Arkansas locations.