L'Oreal building solar project at Florence plant

L'Oreal building solar project at Florence plant
Posted at 5:12 PM, Sep 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 17:12:23-04

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Cosmetics maker L'Oreal USA announced Tuesday it is building thousands of solar panels at its manufacturing facilities in Kentucky and Arkansas, a move the company says will help cut carbon emissions and create two of the biggest solar-powered projects in each state.

The subsidiary of the L'Oreal Group said it plans to install 5,000 solar panels at its Florence, Kentucky, plant and another 4,000 at its North Little Rock, Arkansas, plant. Work is expected to begin later this year, with the panels that will generate electricity for the plants operational by the middle of next year. The company said the Kentucky project will be the largest commercial solar array in that state and the North Little Rock project will be Arkansas' third-largest commercial array.

With the projects, L'Oreal USA said it will have reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent from 101,634 metric tons in 2005 to a projected 20,059 this year. The projects also mean the company's five manufacturing plants in the United States will rely entirely on renewable electricity, L'Oreal said. The company will have 16 solar installations across the country with the addition of the two new ones.

"We are committed to being a sustainability leader in the United States and are proud of the progress we have made," Frederic Roze, chief executive officer of L'Oreal Americas, said in a statement released by the company.

Both projects are being developed by Little Rock-based Scenic Hill Solar. L'Oreal will own the solar panels and Scenic Hill will operate and maintain them, said Scenic Hill Chief Executive Officer Bill Halter. Halter, who is also Arkansas' former lieutenant governor, said the two arrays combined will produce about $7.5 million worth of electricity over the next 30 years, and described them as models for other manufacturers.

"We hope others will follow and we can see as a result of both of these projects that it is feasible for companies to reduce their electricity costs while simultaneously purchasing clean renewable electricity," Halter, Scenic Hill's chief executive officer, told The Associated Press. "I'd characterize it as a triple win of lower electricity prices, predictability in your electricity costs and producing sustainably with clean renewable energy."

L'Oreal officials said the two sites made sense given the size and history of the two manufacturing plants. L'Oreal has operated in Kentucky for more than 25 years, and the plant is the company's largest manufacturing site in the U.S. and its largest worldwide by tonnage of products produced. The Arkansas plant has been in operation for more than 40 years. L'Oreal employs more than 400 people at its Kentucky plant and nearly 500 at the Arkansas site.

"These are some of our biggest sites worldwide and therefore we have a responsibility to drive the performance of these sites from an environmental perspective," Richard Jones, head of North American manufacturing for L'Oreal Americas, told the AP.

The panels will produce 10 percent of the electricity of each facility, with the remaining power coming from local hydroelectric plants. The 1.5 megawatt Kentucky array will be installed on the roof of the 687,000-square-foot plant, while the 1.2 megawatt Arkansas array will be constructed on eight acres adjacent to the 446,691-square-foot facility. L'Oreal said the projected carbon emissions reduction from the Kentucky array will be equivalent to eliminating more than 2.8 million miles traveled by passenger cars per year. In Arkansas, it will be equivalent of a 3.2 million mile reduction per year.

Each project will employ 25 construction workers for about four months, Halter said. The company declined to say how much it is spending on the two projects.