by Kyle Massey
Jennah Denney of Today’s Power Inc. has noticed a pattern in her company’s run of building small utility-scale solar generation plants for Arkansas’ electric distribution cooperatives: At groundbreakings, the weather’s bad. At ribbon-cuttings, the sun blazes.
But rain or shine, Today’s Power is keeping her busy. The Little Rock company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., has built or started work on solar stations capable of powering hundreds of homes at 10 of the state’s 17 cooperatives.
The latest announcement came this week at South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative in Arkadelphia, where some 3,800 photovoltaic panels will be erected on about eight acres near the co-op headquarters.
“I’m thinking all of these cloudy days on groundbreaking days means we will have sunny days on the Flip the Switch ceremonies,” said Denney, the solar company’s PR chief. “That’s held true so far. This project will mark the 10th of the 17 Electric Cooperative in Arkansas who have added a solar array in the 1-megawatt range.”
The installation, like others TPI has built for co-ops and other businesses, includes advanced single-axis tracking, allowing the panels to absorb more of the sun’s energy. The system was designed to mitigate peak demand, and will generate 1.4 megawatts at peak power.
“We are pleased to add solar energy to our portfolio of assets,” SCAEC Chief Executive Kevin Brownlee said in a statement. “The fact that it’s economically viable and green is fantastic for the cooperative and our members.”
The distribution co-op serves more than 10,000 accounts across parts of Clark, Dallas, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Howard, Montgomery, Nevada, and Pike counties.
“This project shows South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative’s commitment, not only to providing our members with reliable, affordable power, but also to listening to their feedback,” Brownlee said. “Many members have asked in recent years for additional renewable generation sources. This utility-scale installation offers just that.”
The solar installation has a 25-year estimated lifespan and could provide an economic boost to the area, said Michael Henderson, president of Today’s Power. “This project will result in significant savings for the members of SCAEC,” he said, adding that it “shows how progressive the board of directors and Management of SCAEC are in meeting the needs of its membership and ensuring they receive maximum value.”
Today’s Power is planning an Earth Day celebration and solar plant dedication Tuesday at North Arkansas Electric Cooperative in Salem (Fulton County).