Major solar savings for FLSD

A partnership in a solar project is expected to save Fountain Lake School District more than $1 million over the project’s 25-year life.

The district is a direct partner with Scenic Hill Solar. Former Arkansas lieutenant governor Bill Halter is CEO of the Little Rock-based company.

The district will pay its Entergy Arkansas bill to Scenic Hill, which will then pay Entergy.

A key consideration for the district was finding a solar site inside the district, Fountain Lake Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy told the Hot Springs Village Property Owners’ Association Governmental Affairs Committee this month.

The district had studied a solar project with Entergy, but the utility’s solar plant is in Arkansas County. Savings come from net metering solar power from Scenic Hill to the Entergy system.

While the district would have saved money either way, Murphy said it was important for the district to benefit from property tax from the power plant.. 

Purchase of property within the district boundary was the major challenge,” he said. “We were working for 18 months to find a site.” Few sites were for sale, and some land was too costly for the project.

The partnership enables the district to save on its power bill without the responsibility of operating the system. “We did not want to be in the business, as a school district, managing a system,” Murphy said.

One key to preparing for the project: Making the campus very energy efficient, Murphy said. The solar plant is being built at no cost to the school district.

Scenic Hill customizes solar PV projects to businesses, utilities, non-profit, and public-sector organizations, and is constructing a series of solar plants for the City of Hot Springs.

City manager Bill Burrough says Hot Spring became the nation’s sixth city to announce it would  supply all its governmental and municipal operations’ power via renewable power. Hot Springs expects to save at least $28 million over its 28-year service contract.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the city’s first solar plant was held in June. It is sited at the city’s Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant on Winkler Road.

Burrough says the plants will provide about $20 million of economic development in Garland County.

Each Scenic Hill project depends upon the customer’s needs, says Halter. “We want maximum value for clients. After 15 years of falling prices, solar is the cheapest way to create power in Arkansas if you’re building a new generation plant,” Halter says.

The City of Greenwood (Sebastian County) will receive half its power from two solar plants, an Oct. 6 release said. 

Arkansas Act 464 of 2019 offers a way for public-sector entities to save money without upfront costs, because all the investment in building and running the project is by the solar developer. Act 464 sponsors were senators Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, and David Wallace, R-Leachville.

Appeared in Hot Springs Village Voice
By Lewis Delavan