City of Greenwood, White County Schools Join Solar Bandwagon

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Scenic Hill Solar CEO Bill Halter, the former Arkansas lieutenant governor, is accelerating his quest to take solar energy to schools and towns across the state.

On Thursday morning, he talked about $3 million worth of new projects, one for the city of Greenwood and the other for White County Central School District in Judsonia.

The town of 9,000 near Fort Smith expects to save $48,000 a year after Scenic Hill builds two solar arrays, and the north-central Arkansas school system of 850 students expects its single solar plant to yield $24,000 in savings to be devoted to other priorities.

“We’re delighted for both of these clients,” Halter told Arkansas Business. “Greenwood is a great community, and its mayor and council are quite excited. The project touches two electric utility territories, and that in and of itself makes it rare.”

The school district will derive 99% of its power requirements from the 681-kilowatt DC array, an approximately $1.3 million project involving 1,580 solar modules. Greenwood’s two arrays, a combined $1.7 million project, will supply about 50% of power used in city operations.

“White County Central is another school district going nearly 100% renewable, with great engagement by a superintendent and school board that are happy to improve the district’s budget at a time when all school budgets are under stress,” Halter said.

In both Greenwood and Judsonia, Scenic Hill of North Little Rock will build, own and operate the solar plants and sell electricity to the clients under long-term contracts.

Greenwood’s two plants will total 950 kilowatts of DC capacity. The bigger array, 750 kilowatts, will be built on city-owned land bordering a water treatment plant in the service area of Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative of Ozark. Its companion, a 200-kilowatt station, will be on city-owned land near Greenwood Lake, southwest of the treatment plant. The lakeside plant is in territory served by Southwestern Electric Power Co. of Shreveport.

Over 28 years, the projects are expected to save Greenwood $1.9 million and White County Central $1.1 million, officials said.

“White County Central is excited to partner with Scenic Hill Solar to drive down utility bills and allow the District to be a part of the solution by providing renewable electricity in our community,” Superintendent Dean Stanley said in a district statement. “We also are excited about the educational benefits to our students as they observe the real-world value of STEM classes.”

Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow, in a news release, called the solar agreement a proud achievement. “By powering municipal facilities and operations with renewable energy, we are taking a huge step in being good stewards of taxpayer money while making a positive impact on our environment.”

Halter, a Stanford University graduate and Rhodes Scholar who grew up in North Little Rock, expects momentum for city and school solar projects to keep growing.

“I think what’s happened is that steadily cities and school districts are becoming more aware of the possibilities and advantages of these kinds of projects,” Halter said. “Think about it. A typical city has a limited budget and a lot of needs. The same is true for schools.

“Any time a community can save scarce tax dollars while stimulating local economic development, it’s a multiple win for these entities,” Halter continued. “It’s also a signal to the rest of the business community that a city is progressive and forward-leaning. Beyond the environmental and property tax advantages and local employment gains, the fact is that a lot of businesses around the world now have sustainability goals and are looking to engage with communities sharing those goals.”