The Ozarks Electric building on Wedington Dr., Jan. 24, is one of two locations that provides electricity to solar panels at wastewater treatment plants in Fayetteville.

The Fayetteville City Council unanimously approved to install solar panel at two wastewater treatment plants beginning in March, which should save the city electricity and help the environment, said the director of Sustainability and Resilience for the City of Fayetteville.

City Council members voted on construction on the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Facility on Hunter Road and the West Side Wastewater Treatment Facility on Broyles Avenue Nov. 20, 2018. Construction crews will begin working in March and complete the installation this summer, said Peter Nierengarten, director of Sustainability and Resilience for the City of Fayetteville.

The two wastewater plants are the city’s largest electricity-consuming facilities, using about 67 percent of all electricity used by Fayetteville city government, Nierengarten said.

Every year the wastewater treatment facility uses 18 million kilowatt hours, which the new solar panels will directly offset by producing that same amount in solar energy, Nierengarten said.

The city will pay $560,000 to install the solar panels and expects to have the cost paid off in about three years, Nierengarten said.

“It was a pretty easy project for our city council to say yes to,” Nierengarten said. “They voted unanimously in favor of it because it saves money, reduces energy consumption and was good for the environment.”

After the initial costs of the solar panels are paid off, the wastewater facility should be able to adjust their water prices, keeping water rates low, Nierengarten said.   

“By us saving money we’re able to pass that savings along to our resident citizens in the community,” Nierengarten said.

Junior Quincy Bair was very happy to hear about the solar panel installation, especially because of what it could mean for the city of Fayetteville, she said.

“This shows that Fayetteville is really paving the way for other cities in Arkansas, and in the whole state, considering it can be very forward thinking and its impact can be really big,” Bair said. “So I think it’s a really great idea to start here.”

Freshmen Lauren Greenwood is also excited to see Fayetteville taking measurable steps toward cleaner energy, she said.

“I think solar panels are great in general and I think a lot of companies or cities sometimes are scared to make that investment,” Greenwood said.

The City Council adopted the Energy Action Plan on January 2, 2018, which was the foundational and guiding grant in terms of efficient energy policy, Nierengarten said.

“We believe it definitely sends a strong signal to the market and to our citizens and the surrounding community that Fayetteville is a environmentally consciousness community,” Nierengarten said. “That we care about the environment, that we’re responsible stewards of our tax dollars and we want to do the right thing by the environment by supporting electricity generation that doesn’t pollute plants.”

This solar panel project has opened the door for more sustainability projects using solar panels. The Sustainability Department is evaluating additional sites and considering rooftop solar panels on government buildings, Nierengarten said.

“We don’t have anything concrete at this point but we’re certainly trying to lay the groundwork for the next project after this one,” Nierengarten said.

Greenwood would like to see a city wide recycling initiative, she said. Sorting recyclables and finding places available to recycle are difficult, Greenwood said.

Bair is also disappointed with the city's recycling program and thinks improving recycling programs would help reduce the city’s emissions, she said.

Aside from solar panels, the city is making its buildings more energy efficient by upgrading to LED lights, which will lower energy consumption, Nierengarten said.

The Sustainability Department is working toward creating and improving access to energy efficient financing for businesses, Nierengarten said.


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