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West Memphis going solar

City celebrates commissioning of Big Cypress Solar Energy Center


City celebrates commissioning of Big Cypress Solar Energy Center


Community members and elected of_cials gathered in West Memphis, Arkansas, on Thursday to celebrate the commissioning of the state’s newest solar energy _eld. The Big Cypress Solar Energy Center, built by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, will deliver 20 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to West Memphis Utility customers with the capacity to generate up to 180 megawatts of solar power.

The facility, which began commercial operation in January 2024, created 300 jobs during its construction is expected to be providing energy for the city of West Memphis in early 2025.

For many West Memphians the burning question is how will this affect their electricity bills next year. According to recently hired Director of Utilities Bob Atkins, “not at all.” Well, sort of.

“We can supply 650 homes with power per megawatt. Some estimates say that’s nearly 14,000 homes, but I don’t want to mislead people. Larger businesses in town such as Southland and Wal-Mart are obviously going to use more than the average household. At it’s peak last summer, the city as a whole was pulling 93 megawatts.” says Atkins.

“We will begin taking delivery in early 2025,” he continues, “And people will still see the fuel adjustment on their bills. Various things can affect that adjustment, the rise and fall of the price of coal, a cloudy day, etc and instead of raising the _xed rate we charge residents, we can adjust to real time changes in the market which helps to keep what we charge clients more stable. In short, residents will not see a jump in their bill at all because of solar energy. Our rates are

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stable for the length of the current deal which stays in effect until 2039.”

Explained in layman’s terms; The Fuel Adjustment on your electric bill directly reects the changing cost of generating power. When the Fuel Adjustment charge increases or decreases, it means that the City of West Memphis is adjusting it to cover the costs of purchasing power for all residents. A portion of the city’s rate is allocated to cover a set amount of power costs. If the cost of purchasing power exceeds this set amount, the Fuel Adjustment rate is adjusted accordingly to cover the additional expenses. This means that while the city’s rate remains stable, the Fuel Adjustment rate may uctuate. This system is similar to how the cost of gasoline affects the overall cost of using your car. The bene_t of having a Fuel Adjustment charge that is responsive to fuel prices is that residents are not locked into higher charges when fuel costs decrease.

Atkins goes on to say that not only does solar energy have enormous and innumerable advantages, the principles of which are lower cost and longer sustainability over traditional fossil fuels such as coal, but it’s just “the right thing to do.”

“Two steam or coal plants, The Independent and White Bluff which West Memphis has a co-ownership in, are expected to shut down by 2030. The cost of maintaining those plants are incredibly expensive. Even though coal itself is cheap, producing clean coal comes at a huge cost and it’s just not economical anymore. A solar _eld can be constructed in almost no time at all, while a coal plant can take up to 20 years from concept to commissioning.”

As long as the sun shines, we will never run out of energy to power our homes, cars, and other possessions. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are _nite resources that will eventually be depleted. While fossil fuels can technically renew themselves over millions of years, they are not a sustainable energy option for the future. Solar energy, on the other hand, is a viable alternative as long as we have access to direct sunlight.

The advancement of photovoltaic solar technology allows us to harness sunlight more ef_ciently for energy generation. Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy does not produce harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which are linked to severe weather events and environmental changes. By switching to solar energy, we can reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the impact of climate change.

Solar power is one of the most affordable energy sources globally and its cost is expected to continue decreasing as technology improves. Unlike traditional electricity production methods that require large amounts of water, solar panels do not use water at all. This helps conserve the Earth’s most precious natural resource and reduces the strain on freshwater reserves.

With Amazon set to receive 120 megawatts of the center’s energy output, the project will supply renewable energy for corporate of_ces, data centers, and ful_llment centers. West Memphis and state leaders see the solar center as more than just solar panels, as it will create jobs and provide tax revenue for the county. In addition to providing clean energy, the Big Cypress Solar Energy Center is expected to add $7.9 million in tax revenue for Crittenden County over the next 35 years.

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