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UAMS marks completion of plant as power backup for campus

by Jaime Adame | October 15, 2021 at 3:24 a.m.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Little Rock campus is shown in this file photo.

A $50 million new power plant at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will result in energy savings, the top leader for the campus said Thursday.

UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. gathered with other state and regional leaders Thursday to celebrate completion of the plant's construction.

The selection of the site for the plant, on the eastern portion of the medical campus, has involved a rerouting and expansion of Pine Street. Beginning next spring, there will also be a partial closure of Cedar Street. Little Rock contributed $4.6 million of the estimated $10 million cost for the street changes, according to UAMS.

The electrical plant will provide backup power for the UAMS campus and is part of a larger, $150 million energy project that uses what the state calls Energy Performance Contracting.

Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting is "a financing mechanism used to pay for energy efficiency improvements all at once that are then paid back through annual energy savings," according to the state Department of Energy and Environment.

A deal between UAMS and Bernhard Energy is considered a "guaranteed cost savings contract," according to the 2019 official statement accompanying the $146.1 million bond issue from UAMS used to pay for the project.

The bonds are considered a general obligation of the university's governing board, with revenue collected from in-patient services pledged to pay off the debt, according to the official bond statement. Annual debt service payments are scheduled to be made through 2042, according to the statement.

Patterson, according to a UAMS announcement, in remarks Thursday said construction on the new power plant began two years ago and has been completed early. He said it will result in an estimated $4.8 million in annual savings.

The 34,000-square-foot plant will have a 24 megawatt capacity and has involved the installation of diesel generators, according to a UAMS spokeswoman and the official bond statement.

Other portions of the $150 million energy project include replacing the exterior of UAMS' Barton Building, as well as updating building control systems for the campus, interior and exterior lighting, and electrical and mechanical systems.

Bernhard Energy has a corporate office in Louisiana and an office in Little Rock, according to the company's website.

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