The future of Arkansas’s advanced energy industry – with a workforce of 25,000 people and an economic impact of $2.8 billion for the state – is bright. Actions taken by a state agency, local municipalities, and private businesses of various sizes made 2016 an exciting year in advanced energy. Here are a few of those stories:
- Aerojet Rocketdyne, Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp. and AAEA member Silicon Ranch Corporation flipped the switch on a 12MW solar field in East Camden. The state’s largest solar installation powers 30 percent of the energy needs for defense contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne and supplies low-cost energy to the state’s 550,000 rural electric customers.
- AAEA member Energy Security Partners announced plans for the state’s largest economic development project ever. The Jefferson County industrial plant will be the first large-scale GTL processing plant (turning natural gas into clean-burning diesel fuel) of its kind in the U.S.
- The Arkansas Public Service Commission opened two dockets to decide new renewable energy rules. Lower costs and advancing technologies have helped move solar power into the mainstream across much of America and now the APSC is exploring opportunities for renewable distributed generation in Arkansas. (AAEA is an intervening party in both dockets.)
- The Plains & Eastern Clean Line, which would transmit Oklahoma wind power across Arkansas, advanced with federal approval in 2016. A University of Arkansas study concluded that nearly 900 jobs will be created during construction.
- Utility energy efficiency programs continued to be an important economic driver for Arkansas and advanced energy technologies. At AAEA’s annual meeting, Dr. Katherine Johnson, independent monitor of Arkansas’s utility EE programs, praised Arkansas as a model for its efforts in a relatively short period of time.
- Pulaski County gave the green light to the first new-construction PACE project in the U.S., while Springdale joined Fayetteville to double the size of the state’s first PACE district. The Arkansas local-option PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program authorizes the voluntary creation of energy improvement districts to fund loans for 100% of the cost of energy savings projects by interested property owners.
- AAEA member Picasolar Inc. was awarded a $2 million federal SunShot grant for a pilot manufacturing program connected to solar cell technology developed at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
- Scenic Hill Solar announced it will partner with L’Oréal USA to develop a 1.2 megawatt solar power plant, making it Arkansas’s third largest commercial solar array. The array will consist of 4,000 solar panels constructed on eight acres adjacent to the 446,691-square-foot facility.
- Today’s Power – Electric Cooperatives’ Solar Initiative: Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corp. turned on a new 1MW solar field east of Springdale, Arkansas’s first utility-scale, member-owned solar generation field. The 4,080 solar panels produce enough electricity to power up to 150-200 homes. Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative switched on a 500,000-watt solar array on 1.5 acres at the cooperative’s Van Buren District Office.