by Talk Business & Politics staff
The advanced energy economy in Arkansas added 85 new solar jobs in 2018, according to a jobs report from The Solar Foundation. The number of solar jobs in the state rose 30% to 369 in 2018, from 284 in 2017. Only five states had a higher growth rate than Arkansas.
“Demand for advanced energy technologies like solar energy has grown steadily across Arkansas as homeowners, businesses and public entities seek the benefits of going solar,” said Katie Niebaum, executive director of Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. “AAEA members are investing in local communities to meet this demand, providing good-paying jobs and generating economic development for the state.”
The number of net metering systems in Arkansas rose 56% to 988 systems in 2017, from 633 systems in 2016, according to the most recent data available. The growth rate was double the rate over each of the previous three years and was the largest year-over-year rise in the number of systems.
Nationwide, the number of solar jobs has declined while rising in Arkansas. The nationwide decline can be attributed to the uncertainty over new solar tariffs announced in January 2018 and state policy and economic challenges in some states with established solar markets. As of November 2018, the number of jobs in the solar industry nationwide fell 3.2%, or by 8,000 jobs, to more than 242,000 solar workers, from 2017. Since 2010, solar employment across the nation has risen 159%, from 93,000 jobs.
AAEA 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 Corp., Solar & Renewable Power Systems, Sun City Solar Energy, The Stitt Group, Today’s Power and Trem Wel Energy.
SENATE BILL 145
AAEA is working with a coalition of partners to advocate for legislation to expand the solar marketplace in Arkansas. Senate Bill 145 would allow for third-party financing for those looking to use solar energy. The financing tool is important to nonprofit and non-tax entities, such as schools, churches, cities and counties, colleges and universities and other state agencies. Existing law doesn’t allow these entities to benefit from federal incentives, such as the federal tax credit and accelerated depreciation, and they could reduce the cost of a solar array. With the option for a third-party solar services contract, the public and non-tax entities could take advantage of the federal incentives.
Bill 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 and two faith organizations. The Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee is expected to consider the bill Tuesday (Feb. 19). Bill sponsors are Sen. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, and Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Clarksville.