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University of Arkansas picks solar-power provider

Board of trustees OKs 25-year agreement with Scenic Hill Solar by Ryan Anderson | April 20, 2023 at 5:35 a.m.
A solar power plant is seen on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021, in Greenwood. Built by the Little Rock-based Scenic Hill Solar on land owned by the City of Greenwood, this 750 kW power plant is the first of eventually two such facilities that will supply electricity for city buildings. Visit for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

The University of Arkansas System will enter into an agreement for solar services with Scenic Hill Solar after approval by the board of trustees during a special meeting Wednesday.

Cumulative savings for the system over the 25-year agreement are estimated at nearly $150 million, with nearly $4 million in the first year, said Chris Thomason, vice president for planning and development for the UA System. This "will produce substantial benefits across the system," from cost savings, to workforce development, to research and development -- and contribute to a healthier state environment.

The system-wide purchase is for electricity produced by solar photo-voltaic production arrays, according to Thomason. The UA Solar Committee -- comprising seven members from across the UA System who "reflected a diverse and experienced grouping that appropriately represented all campuses, divisions, and units" -- interviewed three firms who responded to a request for proposal and recommended Scenic Hill Solar as the most-qualified firm at the lowest cost.

Negotiations, legal review, and approval of the agreement have been led and conducted by the UA System general counsel along with participation from Thomason, according to Donald Bobbitt, president of the UA System.

Scenic Hill Solar, headquartered in Little Rock, will provide all capital costs, design, permitting, installation, utility interconnection, operations, and maintenance of the solar arrays and energy, while the system -- through its campuses and units -- will purchase the entire output of the arrays at specified, fixed rates for energy.

The arrays will be in as many as 13 utility provider service areas across the state on property owned by Scenic Hill Solar or the UA System -- although one would be on campus at UA-Pulaski Technical College -- providing 74 megawatts of electrical energy, according to the university. UA System campuses and units will pay for the produced electricity at rates that will vary among utility service areas, but at least 40 megawatts of capacity has been approved by the Public Service Commission at $0.0395 per kilowatt hour.

The Arkansas Energy Office has been designated by the state Legislature to implement the Guaranteed Energy Cost Savings Act for state agencies, including institutions of higher education, and the Arkansas Energy Office has established standards for prequalification of energy services firms and maintains a list of those firms that can implement energy savings performance contracts with state agencies, according to the university. The agreement with Scenic Hill Solar -- which will begin portions of the project this year -- will also include energy production and cost guarantees pursuant to the Act.

This is "a very exciting project," said Morril Harriman, chairman of the board of trustees of the University of Arkansas, the governing body for the University of Arkansas System.

"Economy of scale is a good move," trustee Sheffield Nelson said of consolidating the efforts into a system-wide project.

Print Headline: UA picks sun-power provider


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