Solar solutions: Council moves forward with Entegrity energy project

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

By Samantha Jones

Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com

The Eureka Springs City Council is working with Entegrity on the beginning stages of a solar energy project.

On Monday night, the council approved a resolution adopting a project development agreement with Entegrity. Mayor Butch Berry said Act 464 was recently signed into state law, making it easier for private companies like Entegrity to work on renewable energy projects with public entities. Berry said the city saw presentations from several renewable energy companies before deciding to go with Entegrity.

"The city did extensive research on our utility consumption and realized we could get significant savings by going with solar," Berry said.

John Coleman, Entegrity's Northwest Arkansas regional director, said Entegrity has worked on projects at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Public Schools and the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

"We've gone around the country, but really our bread and butter is right here in Arkansas," Coleman said.

The project development agreement would allow Entegrity to complete an investment-grade audit, Coleman said. He said Entegrity would assess various city-owned properties, including the courthouse, The Auditorium, the wastewater plant, public works and more. Entegrity would charge a $9,590 fee for the audit, Coleman said, to be sure the city is committed to the project.

"We're going to identify all the energy efficiency opportunities available at all those facilities," Coleman said. "We'll get a guaranteed maximum cost for this project and a guaranteed energy savings."

Coleman said he'd bring the audit back to the council, saying the council would then decide whether or not to pursue the project with Entegrity. If the council chooses to move forward with the project, Coleman said, the audit fee would be applied directly to the work.

"We'll take out that fee and roll it into the project so you're still not out any capital costs at all," Coleman said. "We want to have an understanding that you're really committed to this. That's why we put the fee in there."

Alderman Harry Meyer asked if electric cars are included in the project and Coleman said they aren't.

"Electric vehicles have become more and more popular," Coleman said. "It's certainly something to be evaluated."

Alderwoman Susan Harman asked if Entegrity plans to install electric charging stations and Coleman said that's a possibility.

"It's not part of this project, but it is something we can look at and make part of the project," Coleman said.

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she'd like to see the residents involved in the project.

"It's only for city entities," Coleman said.

Schneider asked how the residents could get involved and Coleman said that would be difficult to do.

"We're talking a 25-year agreement," Coleman said. "With community solar, it's more transactional based. You have a lot of residents and a lot of houses. They have to opt in or out. The complexity of doing a project like that is much more difficult."

Alderman Terry McClung summed up Coleman's proposal, saying Entegrity would come in with recommendations and build the project. The city would then buy the power from Entegrity, McClung said.

"We don't have the additional outlay," McClung said. "It's just built into our monthly bill."

"That's right," Coleman said.

Alderman Bob Thomas moved to approve the resolution and the council voted unanimously to do so.

Also at the meeting, the council approved a resolution establishing a temporary entertainment district during Oktoberfest on Center Street. According to the resolution, the temporary entertainment district will be in effect from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. Live amplified sound will be allowed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the resolution says.

The council then approved an ordinance for the annual levy on personal and real property tax on all three readings.

The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at The Auditorium.

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