The use of solar power is expanding rapidly across many American cities, thanks in part to local policies supporting renewable energy.

According to a report by Environment America, the United States now has more than 53 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed and this number is rapidly growing.

The City of Paris recently decided to take part in the statistics by signing a contract with 'Today's Power, a subsidiary of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative, to build a solar power plant in Paris.

"What this means for the citizens of Paris is we have additional renewable energy that we are delivering to the community," said Mayor Daniel Rogers.

Mayor Rogers said that when he started this process of looking into solar power, he talked to several companies that supply solar, regarding the structure and the company processes. With Paris being a smaller populated city, with minimal city employees, purchasing the solar plant did not seem feasible.

"One company that we looked into required almost three million dollars as an initial investment. Maybe that over a long-term course that would have saved money, but with financing and interest charges, I am not completely positive."

Mayor Rogers said that the best route for Paris would be to continue buying wholesale electric, as they currently do from OMPE Power. The city had to be granted permission from the wholesaler before using solar power as part of the towns electric.

"OMPE granted the city a 1.5-megawatt system of solar. That equals out to 3 ½ kilowatts annually out of the 50,000 kilowatts that the city currently uses. Even though it will look like a lot of panels, it is still small when you consider the size of our system."

The solar plant, which will be located north of Cloyes and to the east of the creek, will produce enough clean electricity to satisfy between five and ten percent of Paris's residential electricity consumption.

"The city will be paying 4.7 cents per kilowatt-hour throughout a 20-year solar power purchase agreement. Today's power will supply all the panels and do any maintenance work in the event of damage. The company also upgraded our distribution center to ensure they could connect the solar power to our current lines."

Mayor Rogers said he has been interested in a solar power project for the last two years after visiting with Clarksville officials when they upgraded to solar power.

"I thought this is good for economic development; everyone is moving more toward green. If it is something that can help save the environment and save the city some money, it would be a great idea."

Rogers said that the only issue he had moving forward was initial costs and that is why the option to purchase the solar power was the best for Paris.

"The 4.7 cents per kilowatt-hour will be a fixed rate, so as rates rise over the next 20 years, our solar energy rate will stay the same."

The city is expected to save $65,000 to $70,000 in demand charges alone, even though the city will not be saving any on the transmission side, but Mayor Rogers feels that green energy will be worth it.

"I am super excited about this solar project. I think it will be beneficial to our community and to be able to say that we are a green community to go along with the hydro allocation that we currently have. A huge part of the city's portfolio will be green when this project is complete."

Paris will be an example for other small communities and show that having forward-thinking officials, who are willing to take advantage of technological advances, will make progress in going green.

The installation is expected to begin before the start of the new year, with the project having a completion date of summer 2020.