LITTLE ROCK — Cosmetics maker L’Oreal said Tuesday it will build thousands of solar panels at its facilities in North Little Rock and Florence, Ky., creating what will be among the largest solar-energy projects in each state.
The company previously set a goal of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent, but it said Tuesday the Arkansas and Kentucky projects will allow it to exceed that goal, achieving an 80 percent reduction from its 2005 emissions level.
The project in North Little Rock will be the third largest commercial array in Arkansas and the fourth largest solar project of any kind in the state. The Kentucky project will be the largest commercial solar array in that state.
Scenic Hill Solar of Little Rock will design and build the solar arrays for L’Oreal. Construction of both projects is scheduled to begin later this year, with completion expected in mid-2017.
“Reducing our CO2 emissions by 80 percent and achieving 100 percent renewable electricity for our U.S. manufacturing is a major milestone for L’Oreal USA,” Frederic Roze, CEO of L’Oreal Americas, said in a news release. “The achievement is a testament to our passionate, creative and innovative teams who have pushed us to go beyond our original ambitions.”
The North Little Rock project will consist of a 1.2 megawatt array of 4,000 solar panels on land adjacent to L’Oreal’s manufacturing plant. The array is expected to reduce carbon emissions in Arkansas by 1,326 metric tons per year.
L’Oreal first installed an array of 60 solar panels at its North Little Rock plant in 2012. The array now supplies the equivalent of 100 percent of its outdoor lighting needs, or 18,000 kilowatt hours per year.
The plant has operated in Arkansas for over four decades and is the fourth-largest industrial employer in the greater Little Rock area with nearly 500 employees.
Plant manager Eric Fox said the array will supply 10 to 20 percent of the plant’s energy, with the rest coming from the Murray Hydroelectric Power Plant in North Little Rock.
“I think it’s a great investment in the site, and it also really helps strengthen our manufacturing base and shows we can continue to grow and bring good jobs here to Arkansas on a foundation of sustainable energy,” Eric Fox, manager of the Little Rock plant, said in an interview.
Fox also said the project could be “a catalyst for more renewable energy investments in the state.”
“Arkansas has not had the state incentives that many of the northeastern or northwestern states have had, so we’re lagging a little bit behind in that respect,” he said.
Bill Halter, former lieutenant governor of Arkansas and current CEO of Scenic Hill Solar, said in a statement, “We are delighted to partner with L’Oreal, a demonstrated sustainability leader, and help them to simultaneously meet their bold goals for clean, renewable energy and reduce their electricity costs. We commend L’Oreal on their continued global leadership in sustainability and are honored to partner with them.”
The Kentucky project will consist of a 1.5 megawatt array of about 5,000 solar panels mounted on the plant’s roof. The array is projected to cut carbon dioxide emissions in Kentucky by approximately 1,195 metric tons per year.
The Kentucky plant is the company’s largest manufacturing facility in the U.S. and its largest worldwide by tonnage of products produced. L’Oreal USA has been operating in Kentucky for more than 25 years and now has over 400 employees there.