A large utility-scale solar project in Arkansas built to meet the needs of a major aerospace and defense contractor is also providing electricity for Arkansas’ electric cooperative members. Silicone Ranch Corp. of Nashville built the 12.5-megawatt array in 2015 to serve a manufacturing and testing facility operated by Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings in East Camden, Ark. System testing of the more than 151,000 solar panels and other components began in late 2015. The single axis ground mounted pedestals performed well. With an output capacity of 16.8 MW or more than 30 million kWh of direct current annually, the facility could provide enough electricity to meet the needs of 2,400 single family homes. But much of the power is being used for plant operations. 

Silicone Ranch has a power purchase agreement with Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), which buys the balance of the output for distribution to the wholesale market. 

“This innovative partnership benefits electric cooperative members by providing predictable energy costs and contributing to the strong economic growth in the Camden area,” said Duane Highley, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC). 

AECC constantly evaluates energy sources to ensure that Arkansas’ 17 retail distribution cooperatives and their more than 1.2 million members have reliable electricity that is affordable. Since East Camden is served Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation, the excess electricity from the 100-acre array to the wholesale energy market, providing an ultimate economic benefit to AECC and its member co-ops. Ouachita Electric’s technical and engineering staff provided consulting services to Silicon Ranch throughout development of the project.