“Solar energy means more jobs in Arkansas.” – Sen. Dave Wallace

Little Rock – An overwhelming majority of Senators today voted in favor of Senate Bill 145, a solar jobs bill that will expand the state’s advanced energy marketplace, said the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Dave Wallace, passed the Senate with 28 yeas and 2 nays.

“Advanced energy technologies including solar provide jobs and energy savings in states that deploy them,” said Katie Niebaum, AAEA Executive Director. “By enhancing access to these resources, Arkansas can continue to lead in the advanced energy economy. AAEA members thank Senator Wallace for his leadership recognizing the solar sector as an important economic driver, and appreciate the strong support from the Senate for this solar jobs bill.”

SB145 would enable third-party financing of solar arrays, which is currently prohibited in Arkansas. The financing tool is particularly important for non-tax entities, such as schools, churches, cities and counties, colleges and universities, state agencies, and non-profit organizations. With the option of a third-party solar services contract, non-tax entities could take full advantage of federal incentives and lower the cost of a solar array, unlocking capital to invest in local communities.

Third-party solar leasing could double or triple the number of solar power jobs in Arkansas, according to a recent analysis from the Business Innovations Legal Clinic of the William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock.

“Solar energy means more jobs in Arkansas,” Senator Wallace said during his remarks on the Senate floor. Noting that Arkansas has not taken advantage of its solar job-creating potential, “This bill is a step in the right direction.”

Also speaking in favor of the bill was Senator Trent Garner, who represents a portion of South Arkansas. Senator Garner highlighted the economic benefits delivered by pioneering solar projects in his district, specifically Aerojet Rocketdyne’s 12-megawatt solar farm, SAU Tech’s newly installed array, and Ouachita Electric Cooperative’s community solar farm. He noted how these “advanced innovation” projects have lowered rates for cooperative members and, in the case of SAU Tech, will allow the college to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, funds that can be invested in its students.

Also speaking in support of the bill were Senators Missy Irvin, Mark Johnson and Jason Rapert, who as chairman of the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, played a key role in shepherding the legislation.

“I want to use Arkansas power to power Arkansas,” Rapert said. Listing multiple sources of energy, Rapert added, “We should be taking advantage of viable energy sources.”

Rapert noted the recently announced solar-plus-storage project for the City of Fayetteville and added, “Technology is changing … this is a good bill and good policy for our state.”

The legislation now moves to the House Insurance and Commerce Committee, which is expected to consider the measure during its March 13 meeting.

SB145’s wide range of 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, and multiple conservation and faith-based organizations, among others.