Utility Board Discusses Solar Power Options


Doug Thrall, a member of the Lamar Utility Board, introduced the possibility of establishing a solar panel farm to produce power to supplement several hundred subscribers in Lamar.   Customers of Lamar Light and Power are paying, in addition to the electricity they receive, the balance of the construction cost of the failed coal-fired plant.  A percentage of their utility bill goes to Arkansas River Power Authority for that purpose.

Thrall suggested during the April 12th board meeting,  a privately owned solar farm that operated as a cooperative, “What we don’t want to do is take away any profits from Lamar Light and Power and the City of Lamar,” he explained. The LUB receives a percentage of the utility payments and the City of Lamar has a percentage of the payments that go into a franchise fee, an estimated $1.5 million a year for the city.  The billing would be set up so subscriber’s payments would pass by ARPA, but allow the city and LUB to remain whole with LUB taking care of maintenance of the solar facility.

Light Plant Superintendent, Houssin Hourieh, explained that there are several hurdles to overcome before that could become feasible, including placement of the solar panel farm in the proximity of existing transmission lines. The best option would be near the wind turbines just east of Lamar.  He noted that ARPA has an organic contract with the LUB not to purchase power from outside sources.  Another concern is permission from the city to use their transmission lines, Twin Eagles Power Company must be kept informed of such a development and Xcel Energy is a balancing authority in the state for power production and use and ARPA would be informed of any type of power production development.

The scale of the solar panel operation would be dictated by the size of the farm and the number of customers that can be supplied by a sufficient number of solar panels. Calculations to produce one megawatt of power call for just over 5,000 panels which cost $200 apiece on 20 acres of land.  Lamar currently uses 25 megawatts of power and Hourieh calculated one megawatt would supply the needs of 200 households.

The board members generally agreed that solar power is a growing concept for this area of the country and individual homeowners can purchase solar panels for their own use. Hourieh told the board he would bring up the idea at the next ARPA operations meeting where the suggestion for a one megawatt facility would be forwarded to Twin Eagles for consideration.

By Russ Baldwin



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