A proposed solar power project could provide energy to customers in eleven Northeast Arkansas counties. GRAF Energy is proposing two aggregated solar centers, with locations in Strawberry, Arkansas and Evening Shade, Arkansas.

“Facilities in those locations will allow us to service customers of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, as well as Craighead Electric Cooperative,” according to project coordinator Gary Huskey. “We’ll have an available service area stretching from Mtn. Home to Leachville.”
A public meeting is set for May 14, 2020, at 12 p.m. at the Strawberry Community Center to provide information to municipalities, industry leaders and farming operations.

“If you’re interested in solar or ways to cut your energy cost, we invite you to come find out more at this meeting,” said Huskey. “This will allow our customers to go solar without installing any solar panels at their own location.” Get more information on the GRAF Energy Facebook page.

The project will provide power for eleven Northeast Arkansas counties, including Craighead, Crittenden, Greene, Independence, Lawrence, Poinsett, Randolph, Baxter, Izard, Sharp and Fulton.

“One could think of it as a community solar center where customers have a long-term land lease to host their solar facility,” according to William Ball, owner of Stellar Sun in Little Rock, who will construct the project. “The costs for operating, monitoring and maintaining the solar facility along with other costs such as insurance and electrical generation guarantees are included in the long-term land lease hosting.”

“Participating customers would own their portion of the facility sized to generate electricity that is credited to offset part or all of their usage at their home, commercial or agricultural meters,” said Ball. “Customers with multiple metered utility accounts in separate locations can ‘aggregate’ all of their meters to be credited as long as they are all billed to the same owner and located within the utility’s service territory.”

Besides the land lease, customers can choose a Solar Energy Services Agreement (SESA) where they lease or lease-to-purchase, rather than own their portion of the facility. A lease can be a big advantage to tax-exempt entities where the lessor takes advantage of the tax credits and depreciation and after five years can sell the lessee’s portion of the facility to the lessee for a reduced cost that reflects the tax savings.

The economic return on investment and the number of years to payback are attractive and typical life cycle costs of electricity are lower than what a customer is currently paying the utility for their kWh usage. The aggregated solar center brings economy of scale by combining the energy needs of multiple customers at one site. There is also a benefit of having one primary point of solar connection to the grid rather than multiple individual interconnections. The same is true of operating and maintaining one center compared to many scattered locations.

GRAF Energy is a proposed clean, renewable solar project located in Strawberry, Arkansas, with an additional location in Evening Shade, Arkansas. GRAF Energy will provide a solar option to customers of Craighead Electric Cooperative, as well as North Arkansas Electric Cooperative (NAEC), covering eleven counties in Northeast Arkansas, ​including Craighead, Crittenden, Greene, Independence, Lawrence, Poinsett, Randolph, Baxter, Izard, Sharp and Fulton.