Winners of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Awards also announced

Little Rock – “Job creation pulls Democrats and Republicans together,” keynote speaker David Wilhelm of Hecate Energy told attendees of emPOWERing Arkansas 2018, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association’s 7th annual meeting and policy conference held Tuesday at Heifer International.

Wilhelm, who managed then-Governor Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign among other high-profile campaigns in his earlier political career, was describing how a 300-megawatt solar farm his firm will build in Appalachian Ohio has earned support across the political spectrum for the economic opportunity it will create.

Wilhelm said advanced energy projects are important economic tools, both in rural areas in the U.S. and underdeveloped countries around the globe. He noted AAEA’s mission of growing advanced energy jobs in Arkansas, describing the organization’s work with a quote adapted from hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “AAEA is going where the puck will be.”

Nearly 200 industry stakeholders – advanced energy business leaders, utility executives, government officials, policy makers and regulators – assembled for the day-long conference discussed the growing demand for advanced energy in Arkansas; innovative energy efficiency initiatives at work in the state; and the landscape for emerging technologies, including storage, a conversation led by Arkansas Public Service Commission Chairman Ted Thomas.

Additionally, AAEA welcomed Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Henderson, Congressman French Hill (R) and his Democratic challenger for the 2nd Congressional District, State Rep. Clarke Tucker. The candidates all noted the industry’s important impact on Arkansas’s economy.

“As we recruit foreign industry and investment in Arkansas, we’ve got to be prepared for the question, what are your alternative energy sources? What are you doing on energy conservation?,” Hutchinson told attendees. “I compliment you and want to recognize that you’re important to what we’re doing in Arkansas.”

During the morning session, leaders in business, agriculture and education described how they came to be Arkansas “advanced energy buyers.”

“Our focus is kids first,” said Batesville School District superintendent Dr. Michael Hester. “To do that, we need to be able to retain teachers.”

Dr. Hester initiated the state’s largest energy waste reduction initiative and the state’s first school district solar project. The energy cost savings have allowed the district to increase teachers’ salaries.

Lifelong farmer A.J. Hood implemented a solar system in the Southeast Arkansas town of Tillar that makes Tillar & Company’s grain bin operations 100 percent net zero. “I see solar as common on the farm as a tractor,” Hood told the audience.

South Arkansas Telephone Company in Hampton is the nation’s first and only 100 percent solar-powered phone company. “We took a variable expense and it is now fixed. What other commodity can we do that with?” stated Mark Lundy, director of SATCO.

Thomas, along with former Commissioner and MISO executive Lamar Davis and Director of Regulatory Research for Entergy Corp. Andrew Owens, discussed how regional transmission operators and utilities are managing growing customer demand for distributed energy resources, such as storage.

Asked why the “Distributed Energy Resources” proceeding (Docket 16-028-U) beginning at the Commission is important to the industry, Thomas said, “For each policy issue, there is a business opportunity. Your participation is very important. We need top-flight experts as we manage this technological transition.”

Attendees also heard from utility executives (Mark Cayce, General Manager, Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp.; Sherry McCormack, Energy Efficiency Manager, SWEPCO; John Ware, Director of Energy Efficiency Programs, AOG; and Keith Canfield, Portfolio Manager, CLEAResult) managing some of the state’s most successful energy efficiency programs, which have proven to be an important economic driver for Arkansas and advanced energy technologies.

The winners of the 2018 Arkansas Advanced Energy Awards also were announced at emPOWERing Arkansas.

Chris Ladner was named the recipient of the Ron Bell Advanced Energy Leadership award, recognizing an individual with a strong record of outstanding and consistent contributions to Arkansas’s advanced energy industry, whose work is having a significant, sustainable impact on the industry.

Chris is the Founding Partner of Entegrity, an Arkansas-based sustainability and energy services company. In 2007 he started Entegrity (formerly known as Viridian) to provide independent consulting services which could help develop and maintain high performance facilities that are more energy efficient and reduce environmental impact, all while realizing significant financial savings in both upfront and life cycle costs. Entegrity presently employs over 80 individuals in 8 offices across the United States. Chris holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University, is a LEED® Fellow (the first in Arkansas), LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design and Construction, Certified Energy Manager (CEM), and Certified Commissioning Authority (CxA), Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP) and Certified Energy Auditor (CEA).

Josh Davenport was announced as the Arkansas Advanced Energy Rising Star for his contributions and growing industry impact.

Josh is the co-founder and CEO of Seal Energy Solutions. Josh has become a top voice in the energy efficiency and renewable industry in Arkansas through his education, entrepreneurship, community and industry service, and his pursuit of training and certifications on a personal level. Josh co-founded Seal Energy Solutions in 2012 and has grown it into a $6.4 million Arkansas-based firm concentrating on energy efficiency, heat and air, and solar design and install. Additionally, Josh has been a key voice in the net metering debate before the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

Seal Energy Solutions was honored with the Advanced Energy Business Innovation award, which recognizes a member company for courage, savvy and innovation to expand the market for its products and/or services.

Founded in 2012 in North Little Rock, Seal Energy Solutions has grown from three people to nearly 40 full-time employees across two states. Starting in energy efficiency as a quality control management firm for the Clinton Foundation’s CCI HEAL Program, it didn’t take SEAL long to realize that there was more need and opportunity in the market. Soon, they were piloting energy efficiency work in the field with their own crews. Today, SEAL’s lines of business range from energy efficiency to HVAC to solar design and install across Arkansas and parts of Mississippi.

Powers of Arkansas, Entegrity and Today’s Power were event sponsors.

The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA) is the business voice for advanced energy in Arkansas. AAEA is dedicated to growing Arkansas’s economy through expanded utilization of advanced energy technologies, including energy efficiency, demand response, natural gas electric generation, solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, electric vehicles, alternative fuels and smart grid. These are innovations that make our energy supply more secure, clean and affordable. Visit, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.