SPRINGDALE — Today’s Power, Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Springdale Public Schools flipped the switch Monday to turn on a new solar array and battery storage facility near Sonora Middle School.
The solar project will offset about 95% of the total energy consumed by Tyson School of Innovation, Sonora Middle School and Sonora Elementary School, saving the School District an estimated $2.6 million over the next 25 years, according to a news release. It will also help Ozarks Electric reduce its wholesale demand costs, saving cooperative members about $2.3 million over the same period.
The 2.4-megawatt solar array includes more than 7,000 solar panels with the technology to track the sun on 15 acres behind the school, according to Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks Electric.
Today’s Power, a Little Rock-based subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, owns and operates the solar facility and Ozarks Electric will use the battery system to store power generated during peak times. Ozarks Electric and Today’s Power have used the concept on similar projects, including Fayetteville’s wastewater treatment system and the Ozarks Multi-Industry solar park, according to the release.
The solar project was developed at no cost to the school, according to Superintendent Jared Cleveland. The district provided the land for the project through an agreement, said Kelly Hayes, deputy superintendent of finance. The district didn’t have any development plans for the property, he said.
Today’s Power made the initial investment for the solar project, according to Erin Rogers, marketing and communications manager for Ozarks Electric. Springdale’s City Council approved selling $10.2 million in bonds to finance the project. Today’s Power will make lease payments over the next 20 years and the city will repay the bonds from the lease payments.
The three organizations broke ground on the project in February, said Derek Dyson, CEO of Today’s Power. The solar project represents jobs that will be available to students in the future in areas such as economics and finance, engineering, construction and regulation, he said.
Students will be able to track the energy savings on the company website, he said.
The solar array is a science, technology, engineering and math learning tool for students at the Sonora schools, Cleveland said. The project also provides a way to reduce the district’s carbon footprint and reinvest tax dollars into education, he said.
“Our kids have an opportunity to watch [science, technology, engineering and math] in action, and who knows what kind of dreams kids will have because of something they see every day,” he said.
The solar array is expected to generate 4.8 million kilowatt hours per year, which is equivalent to:
• 734 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year.
• 383,488 gallons of gasoline consumed.
• 3.8 million pounds of coal burned.
• 429 homes’ energy use for one year.
Source: Ozarks Electric Cooperative, Springdale Public Schools and Today’s Power.