Solar energy plant to be built at Highland Industrial Park

By Patric Flannigan

This article was published February 6, 2015 in the Camden News

CAMDEN — Aerojet Rocketdyne and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation – of which the Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation is a part – have signed agreements with Silicon Ranch Corporation to build and manage at Highland Park a facility that will be the largest solar field in Arkansas, according to a news release.

Silicon Ranch Corporation is a Nashville-based renewable energy provider, and the 12-megawatt project will be constructed in Highland Industrial Park in East Camden and will occupy around 100 acres, according to the release. Silicon Ranch Corporation is expected to complete the project in late 2015.

“It will serve to provide predictable energy costs as well as contribute to ongoing clean energy development and economic growth in the region,” the release states.

The agreement is for Aerojet Rocketdyne to purchase solar power for the 1,200-acre site it leases in East Camden, states the release. Details in the release state that once completed, the plant will “provide clean supplemental daytime power to Aerojet Rocketdyne and will be capable of generating enough electricity to power the equivalent of 2,400 single-family homes. Excess solar energy will be released to AECC and integrated into the cooperative’s diverse generation portfolio.”

“Aerojet Rocketdyne understands the importance of solar energy especially when it comes to clean air, the natural environment and economic growth,” vice president of Environmental, Health and Safety for Aerojet Rocketdyne Chris Conley said in the news release. “This agreement better positions our company to attain these objectives and is a critical step toward bringing more renewable energy to rural America. It will contribute to state and federal energy portfolio goals, as well as many of the economic challenges that face businesses.”

The Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation, which distributes power to the Highland Industrial Park, assisted in the agreement by providing technical support, guidance and expertise in power production and delivery, states the release. OECC’s involvement with Aerojet Rocketdyne is a result of a Southern Arkansas University Tech initiative to explore distributive energy options and economic growth for rural Southern Arkansas.

The Camden News attempted to contact Ouachita Electric Cooperative Coorporation for more information about the project, but learned that OECC General Manager Mark Cayce was out of town in a meeting an unavailable to comment on the project as of Friday. However, he expressed his excitement about the new development in a news release from Aerojet Rocketdyne.

“OECC’s and AECC’s partnership with Aerojet Rocketdyne and Silicon Ranch is a means to bring new technology to south Arkansas while providing jobs, attracting new business and providing clean affordable energy for our members,” Cayce said in the news release. “We have advocated for rural communities for more than 75 years. Over the last several years, we have offered our members innovative methods to become more energy efficient. This effort enhances our programs.”

The 12-megawatts, which produce zero emissions, will serve both Aerojet Rocketdyne and AECC. AECC is a generation and transmission electric cooperative that provides reliable and affordable wholesale power to 17 electric distribution cooperatives, including Aerojet Rocketdyne’s utility service provider, OECC. Through an innovative partnership, the companies have worked together to provide Arkansas and AECC’s more than 500,000 members with additional clean energy.

Matthew Kisber, president and chief executive officer of Silicon Ranch, was also quoted in the news release as saying that his organization was excited about the development.

“We are excited to partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne in developing the first, large-scale solar project in Arkansas.” Kisber said. “This would not be possible without the participation and support of AECC and OECC. We believe this clean-energy investment will spur positive economic, environmental and social advantages for the region.”

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