Eyeing a goal of becoming a Net Zero Energy plant, Veolia North America’s hazardous waste treatment facility in Gum Springs is in the process of erecting a 38-acre solar panel farm
By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian
The more than 11,000 solar panels, expected to be operational by mid-2024, will generate 5 megawatts per day. Veolia is in contract with the Little Rock-based Today’s Power Inc. and has recently cleared the acreage of timber. From that clearcut, Veolia sold 4,300 tons of mixed hardwood and pine timber, mostly to Georgia-Pacific in Gurdon, said Britt Scheer, director of facility affairs.
Veolia’s goal is to make the plant a Net Zero Energy facility. The solar farm will work in tandem with a steam turbine incinerator to fulfill the plant’s electricity requirements, Scheer said. The turbine will produce an additional 8 megawatts daily. Some natural gas will be used to fire the incinerator.
Power from the solar farm will be sold to South Central Arkansas Electrical Cooperative, which will supply the power back to Veolia as green energy offset, Scheer said.
Veolia expansion update
Veolia currently employs 136 people, Scheer said, noting that there were 61 employees when the company began operating in Clark County in 2020.
A $600 million expansion project will add more jobs, bringing the company’s total to about 225 employees by 2025. Scheer said the new jobs will be a mix of entry-level production positions, skilled labor and supervisory roles. Wages for the entry-level positions will start at $24/hour.
Crews have busied themselves laying the groundwork for the expansion, which includes the addition of an Italian-made steel kiln that was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and up the Mississippi and Ouachita rivers before a six-day haul across South Arkansas highways.
Estimating 20% completion to date on the expansion, Scheer said the plant is still “on target” to have the kiln operating by late 2024.
“This kiln will burn much hotter and more efficiently than our current kiln,” Scheer said. The incinerator Veolia currently uses was inherited when the company acquired the old Reynolds plant, Scheer said.