Advanced Energy Business Leaders Join Governor to Celebrate Solar Access Act

Advanced energy business leaders today joined Governor Asa Hutchinson and other key supporters for the ceremonial signing of the Solar Access Act, legislation that will enhance access to solar power and spur solar sector job growth in Arkansas.

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The Solar Access Act (Senate Bill 145), sponsored by Senator Dave Wallace (R-Leachville), earned strong support from Arkansas legislators, passing the Senate by a vote of 28-2 and the House by a vote of 83-5 last month.

“From this day on, the consumers of Arkansas will drive this market,” Senator Wallace said during today’s signing ceremony. “It’s a great day for Arkansas.”

Governor Hutchinson told the business leaders and supporters gathered that this bill means Arkansas is “open for business.”

Representative Aaron Pilkington (R-Clarksville), who championed the proposal in the House, said, “This is a great way to utilize green technology and at the same time to utilize the free market.”

Senator Jason Rapert (R-Conway) and Arkansas Public Service Committee Chairman Ted Thomas also were in attendance and recognized for their key roles in shepherding the legislation.

The Solar Access Act enables 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, state agencies, and non-profit organizations. With the option of a third-party solar services contract, non-tax entities can take full advantage of federal incentives and lower the cost of a solar array, unlocking capital to invest in local communities.

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

Arkansas already is among the fastest-growing states for solar job creation. The state had its biggest year of solar installation ever in 2018, according to GMT Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Arkansas added the 18th most solar projects among the 50 states last year, adding 118 megawatts of solar generation.

The signing ceremony follows AAEA’s announcement earlier this week that the state has recorded the largest annual increase in the number of net metering systems ever, further bolstering recent reports of strong growth within the state’s solar economic sector.

Among its other provisions, the Solar Access Act also increases the solar array size limit for commercial and industrial net-metering customers from 300 kw to 1 MW, cutting red tape and reducing lead-time for projects. The measure also adds a grandfathering provision to provide market certainty for customers that submit a standard interconnection agreement before December 31, 2022. The measures will take effect 90 days after sine die adjournment of the 92nd General Assembly.

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AAEA members attending today’s ceremony included representatives of Arkansas Energy Ventures, Delta SunEnergy, Entegrity, HISTECON Associates, Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp., Performance Services, Picasolar, Scenic Hill Solar, Schneider Electric, Seal Energy Solutions, Shine Solar, Solar & Renewable Power Systems, Stone Creek Solar, and Today’s Power.

The Solar Access Act’s wide range of supporters include the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, Audubon Arkansas, the Association of Arkansas Counties, Walmart, Mars, Unilever, Target, Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corp., Associated General Contractors of Arkansas, County Judges Association of Arkansas, and multiple conservation and faith-based organizations, among others.

Jennah Denney