by Tyler Hale
Solar is on the rise, and now it’s for the birds. That is – Audubon Arkansas is installing a new solar facility that will significantly impact its environmental impact and provide educational opportunities.
The bird conservation organization will be installing a 35 kilowatt solar facility at the Little Rock Audubon Center, located in the Granite Mountain area of Little Rock. Scenic Hill Solar is developing the solar facility, which is expected to meet 100 percent of Audubon Arkansas’ energy needs.
“Scenic Hill Solar is delighted to work with Audubon Arkansas on this solar power and educational project,” Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar, said in a statement. “The solar power plant will be built, owned, and operated by Scenic Hill Solar and provide electricity to Audubon Arkansas. As the first nonprofit organization in Arkansas to utilize 100 percent solar electricity, Audubon Arkansas is simultaneously building on its rich history of environmental stewardship and conserving scarce budget resources. We are proud to partner with such an exemplary organization.”
According to Little Rock Audubon Center (LRAC) manager Uta Meyer, Audubon Arkansas has been a firm supporter of renewable energy, working to pass legislation, including the Arkansas Solar Access Act in 2019. By incorporating solar, the organization will be able to reduce the center’s dependency on traditional energy and its carbon footprint. “Our motivation was to offset our electrical and energy demands with more solar and renewable energy,” she told Arkansas Money & Politics.
The facility is expected to reduce the center’s carbon emissions by the equivalent of “2.7 million passenger car miles from the highway” over the course of 30 years.
“In order to protect the birds that we love and the places that they need to survive, it’s important that we do everything we can as an organization to reduce our own carbon emissions,” said LRAC Manager, Uta Meyer. “Not only will going 100% solar give us an opportunity to educate the community on the benefits of renewable energy for both people and wildlife, it will help ensure that we’re part of the solution in everything we do.”
Audubon Arkansas’ power commitment will also become an important educational tool with the introduction of the Solar Learning Lab. Visitors to the 450-acre LRAC site will be able to interact with an educational solar technology exhibit as well as the lab, which includes the ground mounted solar facility tied to the center’s electric meter. The lab will also have two educational curriculum that are aimed at K-12 students and nonprofit leaders.
A construction date has not been announced. Construction is set to begin once regulatory approvals are obtained, and the facility is projected to be completed in 2020. Meyer says that the educational components are scheduled to begin before the end of the current school year.