The Ashley County Quorum Court hosted a hearing Tuesday to gauge the public’s opinion on a potential solar farm moving to the Mist area.
Representatives from Tradewind Energy, a company in Kansas, attended Tuesday’s Quorum Court meeting to present their proposal for a new solar plant.
Tradewind is one of the largest wind and solar project development companies in the United States.
The new solar farm, should everything fall into place, will be located seven miles northeast of Hamburg, south of U.S. 82.
Drew Gibbons, Tradewind’s development director, presented printed powerpoint slides to the quorum explaining their goals and asking to partner with Ashley County.
Gordon Wilbourn, an Arkansas attorney, explained that the company is seeking an Act 9 Bond.
The state of Arkansas has a Bond Guaranty Program that was created to provide long-term, tax-exempt and taxable financing for businesses expanding or locating in Arkansas.
According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, an Act 9 bond means revenue bonds issued in accordance with the provisions of the Municipalities and Counties Industrial Development Revenue Bond Law to benefit private companies. A vote of the local governing body is required to issue an Act 9 Bond.
Gibbons explained that the company won’t build anything until they have an energy company or cooperation interested in purchasing the energy the farm generates.
Gibbons and Rod Northway, Tradewind’s Vice President of Development, told the audience the benefits of solar energy and the benefit the farm would have on the community.
Gibbons explained that Tradewind would lease approximately 2000 acres for the project and would run the farm for approximately 20 to 30 years. After the life of the farm, the company would restore the land to its current state before vacating.
A concerned audience member asked about the long commitment and questioned how they could enter into an agreement for such a length of time.
“Sun is free,” Northway said. “They haven’t figured out a way to charge for it yet.”
Northway explained that solar is more reliable in cost estimates because there would be no fluctuation of operating cost, like there is with fuel and other energy resources.
Another issue brought forward by the audience was weather-related damages.
“If you shut down for hail damage does the local economy lose power,” an audience member said.
Gibbons explained that if Entergy or another company that supplies power to local residents purchases the contracts, all parties have a substantial amount of insurance to cover things like hail and tornadoes just as they do with other forms of energy sources.