When it comes to cutting energy costs, some companies are embracing the elements. It takes a lot of energy to keep people comfortable and keep the lights on, so these businesses are turning to renewable energy to cut costs and reduce their dependency on the electric company.
While solar power isn’t a new concept, new advancements in the technology are making it more affordable than ever.
Solar power is a fairly simple concept. Panels with photovoltaic cells take the energy from sunlight and turn it into electricity.
But how are organizations in Arkansas using solar power?
Heifer International in Little Rock recently installed a 100-panel array on the organization’s main campus.
The installation was completed in October 2011, but the plans to include solar power had been in place since the building was designed, said Erik Swindle, director of facilities. While the roof of the building was designed to have 10,000 square feet of solar panels, the current panels were installed at ground level so they can be used as part of Heifer’s educational programming.
“It’s a good visual,” he said.
As for how well the panels generate electricity, Swindle said that in the first 96 hours of operation, the panels produced enough electricity to take one 2,500-square-foot home off the grid for a month. He added that the solar arrays’ real test will be this summer.
Another company taking advantage of solar power is L’Oreal in North Little Rock. The company added its array in November 2011 with assistance from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Energy Office and the North Little Rock Electric Department. The 13-kilowatt system provides 18,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which is enough to power 100 percent of the plant’s outdoor lighting requirements.
“The new solar array not only demonstrates the state’s commitment to investing in renewable energy solutions, but it also conveys their interest in partnering with business to provide sustainable solutions to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions,” said Eric Fox, vice president and plant manager.
L’Oreal’s solar project was funded through grants provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Energy Office, which promotes energy efficiency and emerging technologies through education and managing federal energy funds in the state, helped L’Oreal with the applications.
“They’re on the cutting edge,” said J.D. Lowery, project manager at the Energy Office.
Another renewable-energy technology blowing its way into the state is wind power.
When people think of wind power, they might imagine giant windmills. But instead of large towers, current windmills are minuscule in comparison but still produce a lot of energy.
Arkansas Solar and Wind in Prairie Grove installs wind turbines to help their customers rely less on energy companies. Owner Rudy Timmerman said that wind power is a great option for remote sites, such as cellphone towers and off-grid houses.
One of his customers in Ozark has installed a 3-kwh wind turbine that not only supplements the customer’s home energy, but in the event of a power failure, the wind power can keep the lights on.
“In the wintertime when you might have an ice storm or something along those lines, the wind [power] is a good thing to have with your backup system,” he said.
Timmerman added that wind power is a good supplement to a solar system, because Arkansas doesn’t have continuous winds like some other states, but does have fairly consistent sunshine.