The Hope Water & Light Commission held a special meeting on Wednesday, July 22 in order to gather additional information on an agenda item tabled in a previous meeting. During the June meeting, Russell Cornelius asked the commissioners how they would like to move forward with a request from Hope Public Schools and UAHT to revise the net metering tariff on solar arrays.
In order to make an informed decision on this issue, the commissioners met via zoom with representatives from Integrity Energy and SWEPCO, who explained costs and procedures to the commission. Representatives from their Fayetteville office were online to answer questions.
Integrity began working with HPS and UAHT around February of 2020 due to the needs of saving operation costs and to address facility necessities. An energy savings performance contract allows public entities to perdure improvements with no upfront capital. They take out a loan for a certain period of time and the savings generated from the project each year pays for the debt service each year. The savings are almost guaranteed to add up. Legislation was put in place to allow these types of projects in Arkansas as the state recommends this as a good tool.
The existing solar policy allows for net metering over a 12 month period for a single location, up to 300KW of generation, which is common across the sate of Arkansas. It is likely that the amount would have to be increased to around 1MW equalling 1000KW to insure a sufficient amount for usage.
Facilities such as Yerger Middle School need improvements like new lighting, flooring, ceiling work and fixing water leaks at Clinton Primary; improvements that will generate energy savings and also attract more students to the schools, including UAHT. The United States Department of Installation has recently said that solar installation jobs is the fastest growing sector in the country and there is a need to train these individuals and create a program that would attract more students. The ultimate goal is to build a solar array lab that has plenty of units for the students to practice on and learn from and it will also allow a new classroom to be created out of what is now a shed. Beyond the solar lab, they are looking forward to sustainability for education at HPS to see how these systems work.
The policy changes that would be required for these improvements would be the increase of generation limits, allowance for offsite generation and aggregation of meters benefiting these institutions and $90,000 annual utility savings which funds $1.5 million dollars for these schools.
The meeting consisted of additional conversation on this matter and how it will benefit the community and each representative shared their view saying they think this idea is, and ultimately will be, an all around great improvement for the education of students in our area.
The topic was tabled for further discussion at next meeting so the commission can review the information and get a solid understanding of the specifics of the contract.
The meeting was adjourned by Chairman Lester Sitzes and they will reconvene on June 29 at 7:30am.