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Fayetteville Building State’s Largest Municipal Solar Power System

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Fayetteville City Council voted unanimously this evening, approving a trilateral agreement among City of Fayetteville, Ozarks Electric Cooperative, and Today’s Power, Inc. (TPI) for the development, construction, and operation of Arkansas’s largest solar power system on municipal land and the only one in the state with onsite utility-scale storage. In addition to the expected $6 million saved in energy costs over the project’s 20-year lifespan, the City anticipates a complete return on its investment in 3.1 years. The project will also raise clean energy consumption by City facilities from 16% to 72%, taking a huge step toward Fayetteville’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2030.

TPI will manage project construction and provide full operations and maintenance of the solar arrays and energy storage facilities during the 20-year agreement, leasing the necessary acreage from the City. The systems will operate on Fayetteville’s two water treatment facility properties, the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Facility (east Fayetteville) and the Westside Water Treatment Facility. Ozarks Electric will upgrade and maintain existing electricity connections at the sites. The City will continue its income-producing hay and bio-solid operations at the Noland facility.

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The capacity of the entire system at both locations totals 10 MW of solar power generation and 24 MWh of battery storage on a combined land mass of 87 acres. For maximum solar exposure, the solar panels will be installed on a sun tracking system that produces 15% more electricity than stationary mounts. Currently, Fayetteville’s wastewater treatment plants are the City’s two largest electricity consuming accounts at approximately 67% of the City’s overall electricity consumption. Through solar net metering, the system will power 100% of the treatment facilities.

Each treatment facility will have systems with two main components – the array of solar photovoltaic panels and the battery storage facility. The array will be able to generate 5 MW (five megawatts) of electricity. Energy produced by the solar panels will be dispersed to power the wastewater treatment facilities. Excess electricity will be sent to the electrical grid for use by Ozarks Electric, or relayed to the battery storage facility, capable of storing 12 MWh of electricity. Ozarks Electric will use stored electricity to provide power to their members during peak consumption times like summer. Because of the unique nature of this project, cooperative members will continue to benefit from reliable service without subsidies or associated rate impacts.

RELATED: Faces of Solar Energy: Today’s Power

In 2016, Fayetteville joined the O.N.E. (Ozarks Natural Energy) solar community project when it purchased 100 shares of solar energy from Ozarks Electric’s one megawatt solar array located along Highway 412 near Springdale. Ozarks Electric continues to welcome and encourages new members to join the O.N.E. solar community. Today’s Power, Inc. constructed and currently operates that facility.

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As part of the long-term agreement, the City of Fayetteville has negotiated a 20-year solar services contract with Today’s Power, Inc. at a marginally lower energy price than the current retail rate. The City anticipates its portion of the project’s initial capital site improvement cost to total $560,818. Calculating estimated future annual solar electricity costs and minimal hay and bio-solid revenue loss against the wastewater treatment facilities current standard electricity costs, the City expects an annual savings of $182,021. Thus, the capital cost and the annual savings create a 3.1-year return on the investment. Due to the reduced fixed cost of solar electricity and the anticipated increasing cost for standard retail electricity, officials estimated the project will save the City $6 million dollars over twenty years.

“This year, the City Council showed great vision and leadership for their residents when they approved the Energy Action Plan in January 2018,” said Mayor Lionel Jordan. “Through this important agreement with Today’s Power and Ozarks Electric, the Fayetteville community moves closer to several goals in the Plan. The approval of this solar power and storage project creates the renewable energy our community desires, uses existing City-owned assets more efficiently, adds jobs and promotes economic development.”

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Assuming no regulatory, review or equipment delays, construction is expected to begin in spring 2019 and be complete by September 2019. Operations will begin shortly thereafter. Fayetteville’s Energy Action Plan (EAP) addresses local effects of climate change, energy efficiency efforts, and clean energy production. It is the first to be adopted in Arkansas and the 54th in the nation. For more information about the trilateral agreement, the solar power generation and battery storage project, or Fayetteville’s Energy Action Plan, please visit this webpage: www.fayetteville-ar.gov/energyactionplan.

RELATED: Going Solar: A Guide to Solar Power for Your Home or Business

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