Berryville school district breaks ground on solar project
Members of the Berryville school board participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday for a solar array project that is expected to provide approximately 80 percent of the district’s energy needs and save millions in energy costs.
The solar array, which will be located on the west side of the district’s campus, will include more than 3,000 solar panels utilizing single axis tracking technology with a capacity of one megawatt.
Berryville superintendent Owen Powell said the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will be a huge benefit to the district.
“Berryville School District wants to be good stewards of our resources,” said Powell in a news release issued Thursday. “Investing in utility-scale solar is the most cost-effective way to benefit all who work and learn in Berryville schools, while also investing in a green, clean, renewable source of generation right here in our own community.”
The project, a 25-year agreement with North Little Rock-based Today’s Power Inc., was approved by the district board by a unanimous vote in February after an exhaustive process.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Powell told Carroll County News after the February vote. “We’ve been in planning and negotiating this for 2 1/2 to three years, so to finalize that contract and to be able to get moving forward with it is exciting.”
The district obtained competitive long-term rates with Today’s Power by partnering with The Barnabas Team to conduct the proposal process. In addition, the solar arrays will be customized during the design process to ensure optimum performance.
Under the agreement, the district would only be responsible for purchasing the kilowatt-hours produced by the system, but not for its ongoing operation and maintenance. All of these factors are expected to work together to keep the cost of electricity stable and manageable for the district.
The addition of solar power is expected to reduce the cost of electric power for the district to $0.065 per kilowatt hour and save the district more than $2 million in energy costs over the course of the initial contract.
“TPI is proud to be partnering with Berryville Schools,” said TPI president Michael Henderson. “With this solar array, the district will produce green energy, which will benefit all of its students by lowering the school’s energy costs. In addition, it will be an excellent education resource. It’s rare that one project will help so many students, teachers and staff.”
Today’s Power, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., is one of the largest renewable energy companies headquartered in Arkansas with projects totaling more than $108 million in investments.
In February, Powell said the board put a lot of thought into making the decision regarding solar energy.
“Any time you sign a 20-year contract with somebody, you need to do your homework before you get into it,” Powell said. “And we’ve done a lot of work on it, and I feel really good about it. I think it’s going to be a really good thing for our district.”