by Paul Gatling
The number of net metering facilities in Northwest Arkansas increased dramatically in 2017.
According to annual filings with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC), there were 517 net metering facilities — both residential and commercial — with a solar or combination solar/wind system among electric utilities with customers in Northwest Arkansas. That’s up 72.3% from 300 such facilities in 2016.
Electric utilities with customers in Northwest Arkansas (Benton, Washington, Madison, Carroll, Sebastian and Crawford counties) include Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., Empire District Electric Co., and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. members Carroll Electric, Arkansas Valley Electric and Ozarks Electric.
They all are required to file reports with the PSC every year detailing their existing net metering facilities in the state. The deadline this year was March 15.
“These numbers are a clear example of the growing demand for advanced energy technologies and their positive economic impact on our state,” said Katie Niebuam, who is executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. “AAEA members report that consumer awareness regarding solar’s affordable price and short-term payback has grown. As a result, companies are adding new positions to meet growing consumer demand and new companies are entering the marketplace. It’s a win-win.”
Net metering is a system in which solar panels or other renewable energy generators are connected to a public utility power grid and surplus power is transferred onto the grid, allowing customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility.
Net metering in Arkansas is available to residential customers whose facilities have generator capacity up to 25 kilowatts, and to non-residential customers whose facilities have generator capacity up to 300 kilowatts.
The process been available to customers in Arkansas for more than 15 years, permitted because of the Arkansas Renewable Energy Development Act (AREDA), passed by the Arkansas General Assembly in 2001.