The Booneville City Council last week gave a verbal go-ahead for the mayor to engage in a project development agreement to have an analysis into the feasibility of installing a solar array to provide energy for the city.


During a presentation to the council John Coleman of Entegrity Partners said a preliminary "back of a napkin" study of utility bills led his company to a belief the city could save $10,000 to $12,000 annually in energy costs through a project which would require no capital investment.


Coleman termed the estimate conservative.


The city currently pays about $54,000 annually in electricity bills.


Legislation enacted recently allows a company to build a solar array for an entity such as a municipality with no investment provided the entity purchase the energy produced from the company, Coleman said.


The company will have to provide a guarantee of a minimum power amount and a maximum rate for the energy but, Coleman said, the company has been able to beat a stated rate before.


Coleman also said his company is working on a project in Green Forest for both its city and school district.


The Booneville School District is interested in a similar project here superintendent Trent Goff has said, and Coleman previously addressed the school board about the possibilities.


The preliminary estimate for the project discussed last week found the school district’s savings should be as much as the city’s, if not more, Coleman said.


The benefit to the array covering both city and school facilities would be the larger the array, the lower the energy cost would be, Coleman said.


"I think it’s a great idea, and working with the school, I think it’s the future and we need to get on board," said Mayor Jerry Wilkins.


Once an agreement is signed — Coleman said he could, and did, have one to the city by the end of last week, but the next regularly schedule city council meeting isn’t until July 27 — the next step would be to evaluate a property for the project.


Coleman said five to seven acres would be his needed for an array to produce one megawatt of power.


Wilkins posed the use of land the city owns near its water treatment facility.


Water department superintendent Larry Maness said he believed the land in question would be at least five to seven acres.


Wilkins asked the life expectancy of the panels to which Coleman said 30 to 35 years and that the company assumes a 0.5 percent degradation of the panel each year when computing energy generation expectancy.


The project development plan has a fee of $7,000, to $8,000 Coleman told the council but there is no fee if the analysis cannot show at least a $10,000 annual savings.


Additionally, Coleman said, the city writes a check for the fee only in the event the plan shows the city can save $10,000 in annual energy costs, but it decides not to proceed with the project.


If the city chooses to proceed the cost of the study is then folded into the cost for the energy produced, Coleman said.


Once a study is completed the construction and connecting to the electricity grid to provide the energy produced process takes seven to eight months, Coleman said.


Coleman said his company has 70 megawatts in project in operation and construction statewide with 20 in construction and 50 more in a design/development state.


Asked for references by councilman Steve Reid, Coleman said Entegrity completed a project for the Arkansas Department of Corrections and has another in Batesville and that he would be happy to provide contract information.