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LR sewer board OKs agreement for solar power

by Rachel Herzog | November 25, 2019 at 2:37 a.m.

The Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority will enter into a solar service agreement that will save the utility $2.7 million over the next 25 years.

The utility’s board of commissioners on Friday approved the contract with Entegrity Energy Partners LLC wherein the sewer authority will buy solar energy from the company at a rate of 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour. The energy company will provide an estimated 2.5 million kilowatt hours per year.

Entegrity will own and operate the facility while the utility will buy the power, authority chief operating officer Howell Anderson said.

Buying solar power is 1.8 cents cheaper per kilowatt hour than purchasing power from Entergy, he said.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you multiply it by 2.5 million kilowatt hours, it starts adding up,” Anderson said.

The water reclamation authority previously considered building its own solar facility, but going through Entegrity is advantageous because it means the utility can avoid borrowing money to make a capital investment and start reaping the savings right away.

The move is expected to save the utility $45,000 in 2020 and could help delay future rate increases, Anderson said.

“This is really a win-win, not only for the utility but for the ratepayers,” utility CEO Greg Ramon said.

[WEEK IN LR: Catch up with the biggest stories from Arkansas' capital city in this free newsletter » arkansasonline.com/emails/this-week-lr]

The power will go to nearly all of the utility’s pump stations around the city as well as its office building and Clearwater maintenance facility, which makes up about 16 percent of the utility’s power usage.

Ramon said at Friday’s special meeting that the sewer authority will now run half on renewable energy.

That includes a generator at one of the treatment plants that burns biogas, a type of fuel made from the decomposition of organic waste.

The contract was approved unanimously, with two commissioners absent.

CORRECTION: A Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority project to install solar panels at its Adams Field facility in 2020 will require no capital investment from the utility. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported how much the utility will spend on the project.

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