North Little Rock’s Wastewater Utility is now being powered in part by a new solar array. Completion of the $1.4 million facility was celebrated Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Director Michael Clayton says the solar panels will provide about 20% of the electricity needed to power the utility, which typically costs about $900,000 a year. It serves about 42,000 customers in North Little Rock, Sherwood and Maumelle.
In the first year, Clayton says the facility will provide a savings of about $26,000. Over five years, that figure is expected to grow to $146,000 and in 20 years reach $846,000.
Discussions began in September 2018, with the city partnering with Scenic Hill Solar to build the array. Mayor Terry Hartwick praised utility officials for being forward thinking by pursuing the project which he says will save the city money while providing clean energy.
“It’s significant because it will never wear out. We’re talking about a life process of 30 or 35 years,” Hartwick said. “So, I’m very proud that our city is as green as probably any city in the state because of the hydroelectric plant, now this solar power plant.”
The city's hydroelectric plant, which started operating in 1988, uses water from the Arkansas River at Murray Lock and Dam to generate power for the city-owned electric company. Hartwick credits that with keeping power on for most in North Little Rock during February’s snowstorm, while thousands of others in the state were in the dark.
North Little Rock is the latest city in the state to harness the power of solar energy. Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar, said during the ceremony that the array will provide long-term benefits.
“This power plant is rated for a useful life of 35 years, but the reality is it’ll go much longer than that. There’s no fuel cost, we’ve got no way to tax the sun. This is one of these things that is just going to continue to pay economic dividends for North Little Rock,” Halter said.
A city press release says the 850 KW plant will produce 1,400,000 kWh of electricity in the first year of operation. It will reduce carbon emissions by over 28,000 metric tons, which is the equivalent of eliminating the burning of 31 million pounds of coal or providing electricity to over 4,800 homes per year.