The number of net metering systems in Arkansas increased 52.6% to 1,508 in 2018, from 988 in 2017, and the net increase of 520 new systems was the largest annual rise in the number of systems in the state, according to the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA). The majority of the systems were solar panel systems, but some were solar and wind systems and wind systems.
“These numbers are further evidence of the growing demand for advanced energy resources, which create job opportunities, secure local community investment and generate energy savings for Arkansans,” AAEA executive director Katie Niebaum said. “The solar sector is an increasingly important economic driver in our state with tremendous opportunity ahead.”
The organization announced the record rise Monday (April 1) after the state legislature approved third-party financing of solar arrays and to increase commercial project size limits up to 1-megawatt. Third-party solar leasing might double or triple the number of solar jobs in Arkansas, according to a recent analysis from the Business Innovations Legal Clinic of the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The number of solar jobs in the state rose 30% to 369 in 2018, from 284 in 2017, according to report from The Solar Foundation.
The solar energy industry in Arkansas installed the 18th most solar projects among the 50 states in 2018 and added 118 megawatts of solar generating capacity, according to a market report from GMT Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Following are AAEA solar businesses: Arkansas Energy Ventures, Dadeni Solar, Delta SunEnergy, Entegrity, LightWave Solar, Picasolar, Scenic Hill Solar, Seal Energy Solutions, Shine Solar, Silicon Ranch Corp., Solar & Renewable Power Systems, Stone Creek Solar, Sun City Solar Energy, The Stitt Group, Today’s Power and Trem Wel Energy. AAEA electric utility members include Entergy Arkansas, Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp. and Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO).
“The level of interest and demand from residents of Arkansas has continued to increase as residents continue to become more educated on solar and its immediate benefits for those who adopt it,” said Caleb Gorden, president of Shine Solar in Bentonville. “Solar costs continue to make sense for homeowners and the ability to easily finance systems for no money out of pocket are one of the biggest attractions. There is no new money out of pocket each month being spent on solar. Homeowners who install solar are simply trading utility costs for solar payments, but they are fixed and reaping tax credits and ownership along the way. Its money already going out the door, now it just goes toward ownership of an asset. The decision continues to make more sense now than it ever has. Due to the steadily increasing demand, Shine Solar has grown from its two original founders to over 90 full-time employees.”
“The solar industry is at a really interesting place in Arkansas today,” said Douglas Hutchings, CEO of Picasolar in Fayetteville. “Installing a solar array can have a great financial return in certain situations but access is often gated behind the ability to take advantage of various incentives. New policy is making it easier than ever to participate, and I anticipate a doubling of the projects that we support over the next 12 months. Additionally, the fact that local technologies developed at the University of Arkansas are actively entering production is a testament to local innovation throughout the solar value chain.”
“Seal Energy Solutions is poised for the largest year-over-year growth we have seen since inception,” said Heather Nelson, co-founder, president and chief operating officer for Seal Energy Solutions in North Little Rock. “Now with the passage of Senate Bill 145, solar pricing 60% less than it was four years ago and improved financing options resulting in the majority of residential clients seeing cash flow positive projects month one — the future for solar in Arkansas is bright. Seal Energy Solutions is humbled and honored to be a part of this growing industry in our home state. As such, we have recently created the role of vice president of operations and hired Stefan Booy; both the role and Stefan’s skillset are a natural step in Seal Energy Solutions’ growth as we enter year seven. Strategically, this role allows the founders to focus on strategic vision, business development, advocacy and specific growth/expansion plans; the timing could not be more perfect.”
Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. has 870 customers with net metering systems; Entergy, 454; SWEPCO, 125; OG&E, 48; and Empire, 11.