Arkansas flips the switch on its first large-scale solar plus storage hybrid system

One of the first large-scale systems of combined solar arrays and on-site battery storage in the mid-South, a joint project between the City of Fayetteville, Ozarks Electric Cooperative, and Today’s Power, Inc., was officially linked to the nation’s power grid this week.

The project is made up of five systems, three solar farms and two battery storage facilities, which encompass 87 acres at Fayetteville’s two water treatment facilities. The capacity of the operation totals 10 megawatts of new solar generation with 24 megawatt-hours of on-site energy storage. Of all the City of Fayetteville’s government buildings and facilities, the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Facility (east Fayetteville) and the Westside Water Treatment facility are the city’s largest power users. The installation will save the city approximately $180,000 per year, said the companies.

The solar PV panels are mounted on a tracking system that generates about 15% more electricity than stationary mounts for peak solar exposure. When electricity generated by the arrays exceeds the demand of the wastewater treatment facilities, energy will be distributed to the grid for use by cooperative members or to the on-site battery storage systems, which can be dispatched into the grid during peak usage periods.

Work on the $23 million system started in March, and power generation began in July. In late August, under a trilateral contract between the City of Fayetteville, Ozarks Electric Cooperative, and Today’s Power, Inc (TPI), a complete interconnection was established. The Fayetteville community is moving closer to several objectives in its Energy Action Plan through this collaboration, ensuring that residents and future generations can inherit a clean planet. City officials aim to have 100% clean, cost-efficient power by 2030.

“Climate change is affecting cities around the world,” said Mayor Lioneld Jordan. “The City of Fayetteville is committed to honoring goals of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement, starting right here in our own community. We want to lead by example for our residents, students, businesses, and utility partners—showing the nation that supporting low-carbon initiatives not only promotes renewable energy and efficiency—it also creates opportunities for good jobs and investments in the Northwest Arkansas region. This incredible project demonstrates Fayetteville’s commitment.”

This project was the first utility-scale solar plus storage project in the mid-South when announced at the end of 2018. A host of comparable projects across Arkansas and neighboring states are anticipated to be triggered.

“This project is a demonstration for 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 that moment,” TPI President, Michael Henderson, said. “Early renewable adopters had to change their lifestyle to enjoy renewable energy but with storage, the consumer can live a normal lifestyle.”

Mitchell Johnson, president and CEO of Ozarks Electric Cooperative, said, “The connection of a project delivering reliable, renewable power to help the city of Fayetteville achieve the goals of their energy plan was a milestone for the Cooperative. Solar power combined with storage will play a significant role in our electricity grid in the future.”

“This project demonstrates how Fayetteville’s progressive energy policies can drive market innovation and create collaborative partnerships. It will provide Fayetteville with cost-effective energy security while also protecting our environment,” according to Peter Nierengarten, City of Fayetteville Environmental Director.

Today’s Power designed this distinctive system to upgrade electrical systems at the wastewater treatment facilities and enable Fayetteville to move closer to attaining its clean energy goals. Ozarks Electric Cooperative upgraded existing on-site electrical connections and is accountable for maintenance. TPI will retain 99% ownership of the solar system and 1% will be owned by the City. TPI will have complete storage system ownership and operation.