Ozarks Electric Cooperative only serves portions of Fayetteville, Arkansas, but when local leaders made a commitment to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and improve its overall energy efficiency, it was the co-op that stepped up with ambitious solar and storage solutions. The results have helped Fayetteville earn a spot on a global list of municipalities recognized for their commitments to clean, cost-efficient power.
“We have a reputation of thinking outside of the box and have a solid staff of engineers and technicians to implement and maintain new technologies,” said Troy Scarbrough, vice president of engineering and operations for Fayetteville-based Ozarks EC. “We have a long reputation of looking for win-win opportunities and then being able to execute those plans.”
For this project, the co-op focused its efforts on Fayetteville’s two wastewater treatment plants, located east and west of the city’s center.
“Our engineers saw this as an opportunity to add solar and energy storage to the sites and help the city control its overall energy costs while meeting its renewable energy goals,” said Ashley Harris, vice president of marketing and communications for the co-op.
The Fayetteville city government has set community-wide clean energy goals of 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. Local officials have been actively pursuing projects to help meet those goals with upgrades and improvements to city infrastructure since 2018. When the co-op presented the solar and storage concepts to city officials, they also suggested pulling in Little Rock-based Today’s Power, a renewable energy design and development subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc.
By late 2019, construction was completed on a $23 million project that built 10 megawatts of solar generation and 24 megawatt-hours of on-site energy storage at the treatment plants.
“This project is a demonstration of how integrated solar and batteries can together deliver dispatchable electricity into the grid when it is needed, whether or not the sun is available at the moment,” Today’s Power President Michael Henderson said at the solar array dedication.
Harris said the facilities are saving Fayetteville about $180,000 per year on electricity costs.
This fall, Fayetteville was recognized by the energy and environmental consulting firm CDP as one of 95 communities worldwide making significant strides in climate change mitigation and environmental impact reduction.
Ozarks EC has partnered on other projects that have enhanced city infrastructure and provided operational flexibility to the co-op and its broadband subsidiary, OzarksGo.
“We have been able to help Fayetteville make significant strides toward their energy action plan in ways that still benefit the general membership of Ozarks,” said Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks EC. “The relationship has given us access to placing conduits through the city’s system of trails, which provide unique pathways throughout our territory and help address operational challenges we might otherwise face with broadband deployment often reducing deployment time and our capital development costs.”
Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.