Little Rock – Arkansas is among the leading states for solar job growth, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association announced today. According to The Solar Foundation’s recently released 2018 National Solar Jobs Census, Arkansas’ advanced energy economy added 85 new solar jobs in 2018. Arkansas solar jobs numbered 369 in 2018 as compared to 284 solar jobs in 2017 – a 30 percent increase. Only five states saw a higher year-over-year growth rate.
“Demand for advanced energy technologies like solar energy has grown steadily across Arkansas as homeowners, businesses and public entities seek to take advantage of the benefits of going solar,” said Katie Laning Niebaum, AAEA Executive Director. “AAEA members are investing in local communities to meet this demand, providing good-paying jobs and generating economic development for the state.”
The state’s renewable energy “net metering” customers increased significantly between 2016 and 2017, the latest data available. According to AAEA’s analysis of Arkansas electric utility reports, the number of net metering systems increased by a dramatic 56 percent. That figure is double the rate of growth over each of the previous three years. The 355-net increase (988 total, up from 633 systems) is the largest year-over-year increase in the actual number of systems ever.
Arkansas’ solar success story comes at time when the national solar industry saw a slight decline in the number of solar jobs, attributed to uncertainty over new solar tariffs announced in January 2018 and state policy and economic challenges in some states with well-established solar markets. As of November 2018, the solar industry employed over 242,000 solar workers, representing a decline of 3.2 percent, or 8,000 fewer jobs, since 2017. Since 2010, solar employment has grown 159 percent, from just over 93,000 to more than 242,000 jobs in all 50 states.
AAEA solar market leaders include Arkansas Energy Ventures, Dadeni Solar, Delta SunEnergy, Entegrity, LightWave Solar, Ouachita Electric, Picasolar, Scenic Hill Solar, Seal Energy Solutions, Shine Solar, Silicon Ranch Corporation, Solar & Renewable Power Systems, Sun City Solar Energy, The Stitt Group, Today’s Power and Trem Wel Energy, with many more advanced energy companies integral to the state’s solar marketplace.
Legislative activity: Senate Bill 145
AAEA is working with a diverse coalition of partners to advocate for legislation that would expand Arkansas’ solar marketplace. Senate Bill 145 would enable third-party financing for those seeking to deploy solar. This financing tool is particularly important for non-tax entities, such as schools, churches, cities and counties, colleges and universities, other state agencies, and non-profit organizations. Non-tax entities currently are unable to benefit from federal incentives (e.g. federal tax credit and accelerated depreciation) that significantly lower the cost of a solar array. With the option of a third-party solar services contract, these public and other non-tax entities could take full advantage of federal dollars.
SB 145 supporters include AAEA, the Association of Arkansas Counties, Audubon Arkansas, Walmart, Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp., Associated General Contractors of Arkansas, County Judges’ Association of Arkansas, six conservation organizations and two faith organizations, among others.
The Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee is expected to consider the bill today. Bill sponsors are Sen. Dave Wallace (R-Leachville) and Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R-Clarksville).
What SB 145 supporters are saying
- Mark Cayce, general manager of Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp. calls solar a “win-win situation for all OECC members and the utility.” In a letter of support to members of the Arkansas Senate, Mr. Cayce writes, “At OECC, we encourage solar development within our service territory. The use of solar generation has dramatically reduced our cost of power at peak times of use. The utility is the only entity that can capture the demand savings. These savings are passed along to all OECC members, solar and non-solar alike. By capturing the demand solar customers help all customers achieve lower overall power cost.”
- “SB145 is a bill that provides access to solar power to counties and other governmental entities. Because of a quirk in the current law, it isn’t cost effective for counties to use solar power. This bill addresses that concern and will allow counties to take advantage of a safe-harbor provision in federal law, permit a county to sign a solar services contract, and save tax dollars in the process.” – Frank Weaver, president, County Judges Association of Arkansas.
- “Arkansas AGC supports smart solar policy that will help grow our state’s economy and create economic opportunities for the construction industry. That’s why we call on members of the General Assembly to support SB 145, common-sense legislation that would provide greater access to solar energy.” – Joey Dean, executive vice-president, Associated General Contractors of Arkansas.
- “The largest economic development bill introduced this legislative session might end up being SB145 … This policy, at its core, enables Arkansans to take full advantage of federal tax incentives by allowing ‘third-party ownership’ of solar arrays and certain other electricity generation sources. This allows greater access to the economic benefits of solar while maximizing the federal dollars supporting local infrastructure.” – Industry leader and AAEA board member Dr. Douglas Hutchings, writing in Arkansas Money & Politics, “SB145 and the Solar Benefit.”
The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association 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 ArkansasAdvancedEnergy.com, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.