JONESBORO — Construction of City Water and Light’s solar farm in the Craighead Technology Park has encountered additional delays due to complications from the coronavirus pandemic, Jake Rice III, CWL general manager, told the CWL board of directors Tuesday, .
The 13.25 megawatt project, previously scheduled for completion in the second quarter of this year, may be delayed a few more months.
“They had several folks on site that tested positive for COVID,” Rice said of the contractor hired by the developer of the project for CWL. The illnesses shut down work for a time this month. “So they’ve had some construction delays that resulted from this event, wet weather, labor shortages and the COVID-19 event that occurred in Malaysia in the third quarter of last year.”
Construction on the project began in November 2020.
CWL is working with Turning Point Energy of Colorado for development of the project.
Two coal-fired plants managed by Entergy Arkansas provide the largest share of Jonesboro’s power needs at this point, but both are being phased out by 2030 to settle a pollution lawsuit.
A second project in Crittenden County will provide additional solar power to Jonesboro and other utilities across the state.
CWL officials have said the solar element will provide a hedge against transmission congestion, and volatile natural gas prices.
For example, Rice said natural gas for CWL’s gas-fired turbines rose from an average of $2.04 per million British Thermal Units in 2020 to $3.93 in 2021, and at one point approached $5 during the cold snap last February.
The price had begun to drop in the past month or so, Rice said.
CWL finished 2021 with combined net earnings of $12.57 million, twice the amount that had been anticipated, more than five times the $2.23 million in net earnings in 2020, according to the CWL operating statement.
CWL serves 39,406 electric customers, 38,153 water customers and 25,632 wastewater customers