Alma discusses continuation of solar project

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
Entegrity's Sam Selig, left, is seen with Alma Mayor Jerry Martin, Alma Public Works Director Mark Yardley, and District 5 Justice of the Peace Raymond Harvey at the city's Flip the Switch event on Feb. 5. The event commemorated powering on Alma's new solar array. The city is on its way to completing its solar project after unforeseen issues.

The city of Alma is on its way to completing its solar project after finishing Phase I in February. Due to unforeseen issues, the city must find new options for continuing the project.

The first half of Alma's solar project was completed on Feb. 5 of this year. The 4 acres of solar panels are located at the wastewater treatment facility in Alma.

The alternative energy will power over 80% of the city's usage with Arkansas Valley Electric. The project began two years ago and the city partnered with Entegrity energy from Little Rock.

Sam Selig of Entegrity Solar gave an update Thursday to the Alma City Council on the progress of the solar project.

"This is good news," Selig said. "Half of the solar project is up and running."

Selig said that the original plan was to construct one solar array and roll right into the other one, but they ran into a few issues.

"We actually designed this project twice in two separate parts of town," Selig said.

The first area was going to be turned into a park, but a plumbing agency contacted them stating that since it was in the park it could jeopardize grant funding. They moved the project to another area near the fire station on Marsha Woolly Drive.

While they were running tests, they found that the ground was too soft for the construction of solar arrays.

"The construction at the wastewater plant went great and we were able to honor all our terms of the contract," Selig said.

Entegrity has been working on how to make Phase II of the project possible.

"After not being able to deliver on Phase II, we got creative," Selig said. 

Entegrity has downsized the solar project and added LED lighting to a few facilities that the city owns. With the addition of LED lighting and the smaller solar project, the city would be looking at savings of around $45,000 as opposed to their original projection of $50,000. For the life of the project, the savings are still upwards of more than $1 million.

The new area will be west of downtown Alma near the school. The land has passed Entergrity's tests, and now they would just have to go through the approval process.

The land by the high school is owned by City Attorney Sean Brister. Brister wants to lease that part of the land to the city for $1 and trade his land for a small piece of land near the wastewater treatment facility.

The city would work with a different attorney for this trade in order to not have any conflicts of interest. The resolution allowing the mayor to work towards this agreement was tabled for a future study session.

The council will not make a decision on the solar project as a whole until the land agreement is settled.