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THV-11: Solar energy to help with improvements at Saline County Detention Center

SALINE COUNTY, Ark. — On Thursday, leaders debuted a new five-acre solar facility in Saline County with hopes of being able to save tax payers a bit of money.

Three years ago, Saline County Judge Jeff Arey and the Quorum Court stopped and asked themselves what they could do to improve buildings across the county in an efficient way.

"That challenge by the quorum court setting that vision and then giving us the tools to be able to do that is really what started the idea for the project," Arey said.

He and others were able to "flip the switch" and they officially made the Saline County Detention Center a solar powered building.

Judge Arey said the more than $6 million project will allow for future improvements to the jailhouse

"Roofing needs that needed to be repaired to equipment for the detention center here in Saline County," Arey said.

Taxpayers didn't foot the bill for this project. The funds actually came from money that was saved because they used existing solar and water energy within the county, which allowed for them to be better able to save.

Alex Ray, Director of Business Development for Johnson Controls International, Sustainable Infrastructure in Arkansas said there are seven other solar facilities in Saline County and each of them have had a big economic benefit.

"We take them 100% renewably powered, [and] we are fixing their cost of electricity for the lifecycle of the solar facility," Ray said.

The solar array is made up of 1,482 solar ground panels with a 30-year power output warranty.

There are also roof mounted arrays on top of the Detention Center that have a 25-year power output warranty.

In total, the project will be able to offset 1.6 million kilowatt hours.

Buildings like schools and jailhouses traditionally use the taxpayer's dollars to power them.

Ray said that he's noticed, there have been more people interested in transitioning to solar energy.

"We are seeing that demand across the country and across the state," Ray said.

While the latest project has continued to save the people who live in Saline County tax money, Judge Arey said he is optimistic that in the future, this could help the Natural State become a solar energy leader.

"Arkansas can be a top producer in solar just because of where we are at in the country and how we work in the sun," Arey said.

The project also includes system upgrades throughout various county properties such as LED lighting, water conservation measures, HVAC systems and energy management controls.

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