The push for businesses to go “solar powered” has dramatically increased across the country over the past few years. Whether it’s the impact of the 30 percent tax credits, the fiscal benefit or a combination of both, more and more businesses are making the sustainable switch every year.
In Arkansas, the solar market has flipped on its head in just the past year. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Arkansas was ranked 46thout of 50 states in solar installations in 2017. In 2018, Arkansas jumped up 16 spots to a current rank of 30thas we near the end of the year.
With over $170 million in statewide solar investment, and installation costs dropping by roughly 47 percent over the past five years, businesses that have not made the switch to solar need to start having those conversations – not “if” but “when.”
The benefits for a business going solar are almost universal.
There is the obvious draw of reducing a business’s environmental impact by utilizing the sustainability of solar power and the positive marketability that comes with that. But the common pull for most businesses is the cost savings on their utility bills. Reducing operating costs are always a top priority, and solar is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to do so.
EnergySage market data estimates that, on average, property owners in the United States see an average of 75 percent reduction in energy costs after going solar.
The overall installation costs can appear as a daunting gatekeeper inhibiting a solar switch, but they are not as intimidating as they seem. Not only does the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30% off the installation costs exist (until the end of 2019), but there are also solar loans, solar leases, and Power Purchase Agreements to ease the immediate financial burden for businesses.
Once the solar system is installed, the business is free to experience the convenience of reliable and maintenance-free energy, which also happens to be cost-free energy. According to EnergySage, a business can expect to “pay for” their solar system through utility cost savings in about 3-7 years. Since the lifetime of a solar system is around 25-35 years, one can expect 20 or more years of free electricity. This generates more money to the bottom line of revenues, freed up to be used however a business owner desires.
South Arkansas Telephone Company (SATCO) is one of the many Arkansas business solar success stories. They partnered with the Ouachita Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power, Inc. on their journey to going 100 percent solar, making them the first solar powered Telephone Company in the state.
Those expense savings allowed SATCO to invest more in home fiber, meaning they could provide more services at lower costs for their customers.
Mark Lundy, Chief Executive Officer at SATCO, speaks incredibly highly of their decision to go solar, the benefits that have come from it, and the ease in which it was accomplished.
“A great benefit is that we were able to lock in our energy expenses for 25 year at a very low rate. We are always looking for ways to lock in and minimize expenses [and] solar has been a perfect solution for us,” Lundy says. “We have never had a project like going solar work so well.”
For business leaders wondering what the impacts of going solar could look like on paper, the breakdown below is a good example of what to expect, and comes from Ouachita Electric’s energy bill at their Camden office since installing a solar garden.
Ouachita Electric Cooperative’s energy bill