Hot Springs, Arkansas commits to going 100% solar

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Say hello to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the city which has officially committed to powering all city operations with solar energy. That means anything that the city owns from courtrooms to schools and government buildings will all be entirely powered by solar energy.

“We’re the natural state, and there’s nothing more natural than solar power,” said Hot Springs City Manager Bill Burrough.

The energy will come from a 13 MW municipal solar power plant, to be developed by Scenic Hill Solar. While that number may not seem paramount at first, it should be noted that an installation of this size represents roughly 10% of all the solar that has been installed in the state thus far. The installation will also be the largest municipal solar project in the state, edging out the 10 MW installation that powers the city of Fayetteville once it is completed some time in 2020. There has been no word yet as to whether or not the project will be coupled with any battery storage.

While hundreds of U.S. cities have made commitments to become 100% renewably-powered, the club of those cities powered exclusively by solar is much more, well, exclusive. Hot Springs now joins the six other U.S. cities who have made the pledge to power all city operations with solar energy: Rock Port, Missouri, Aspen, Colorado, Georgetown, Texas, Burlington, Vermont, Kodiak Island, Alaska, and Greenburg, Kansas. Interestingly, none of these cities are in areas traditionally known as solar hotspots.

The project will be housed over multiple locations with Scenic Hill Solar will owning and operating the entire installation.

This decision by the city of Hot Springs represents the next step of Arkansas’ quiet, yet determined energy progress. Arkansas has added 117 MW of solar capacity since 2017. That may not be a big volume in relation to the state’s overall generation fleet, but it represents a 552% increase over previous marks, and the emergence of a solar industry that now houses 369 jobs. The future of the state is bright, too, as it has its first large-scale solar + storage project on the way and just recently passed Senate Bill 145, which will allow third-party leasing of solar equipment under the state’s net metering program.

This announcement also serves as fuel for the argument that if cities want to seriously switch over to renewable generation, the best way to do so is to take procurement into their own hands.