by Tyler Hale
Pulaski County is investing in two new environmental initiatives designed to reduce increase sustainability and economic growth in Central Arkansas. The two initiatives include a road and bridge test project involving rubber-modified asphalt and the development of a new solar array.
Partnering with Today’s Power Inc., Pulaski County will be installing a new solar array designed to provide power for the Little Rock Port Authority and for county use. The new solar array will produce 8 megawatts (MW) of solar power, which the county will purchase at 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
The solar will be located on approximately 40 acres at the Little Rock Port Industrial Park and on 12 acres west of the county’s justice complex on West Roosevelt Road.
Today’s Power will be constructing the array, and the company will operate and own 100 percent of the array. Pulaski County and Today’s Power have signed a 20-year service agreement for the solar power operation.
The solar array is expected to provide approximately 80 to 100 percent of the county’s electric demand while saving the county $150,000 during its first year. Pulaski County Judges Barry Hyde says the shift to solar power is a “giant step” for improving the county’s dependency on fossil fuel-generated energy.
Hyde expects the solar panel to be put and running soon. “Once the connection to the power grid is approved by the public service commission, we anticipate being fully operational within just a few months,” he says.
According to Hyde, having solar power at the Little Rock Port will be a major economic driver and will be attractive for potential employers and companies looking at Pulaski County.
“The project will not only improve the eco-health of our county and save tax payers money and to add value to the ever-changing Little Rock Port as well,” he says. “The potential to access solar energy is a huge selling point for future employers looking to locate their operations in the port and Pulaski County. It is our intention that as our solar capabilities grow, we will be able to expand services pertaining to the port.”
The second project is a road and bridge test project along a 1.2 mile stretch of Lawson Road in west Pulaski County. The county is partnering with Wright Asphalt Products of Houston, Texas to utilize rubber-modified asphalt, which uses recycled tires as a component of the asphalt, along the road.
When Hyde became county judge, he says he was initially impressed that the county collected tires but was disappointed that most of the tires were sold to companies for cheap fuel. He said he wanted to find a more sustainable way to recycle the tires.
“Waste tires are a major environmental concern. Anything we can do to lessen this concern while providing a new market for recycled tires, while at the same time effectively maintaining our county roads and bridges, is common sense. And, it’s the right thing to do,” he says.
The asphalt project has already been completed and will be monitored and evaluated every year. County officials will compare the wear of the Lawson Road project versus traditional asphalt to determine which is more effective.
Both projects, Hyde says, are part of the county’s efforts to stimulate economic growth while supporting environmental health. He says the projects “signify Pulaski County’s commitment to a sustainable future as well as creating an environment that is welcoming and attractive to employers and citizens. As we continue to grow as a county, we must do it in a fiscally responsible manner while being cognizant of our impact on the environment.”
Image courtesy of Today’s Power