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AAC


FEATURE SOLAR


Te solar project will be installed near the new Phillips County Justice Complex in Helena that East-Harding Con- struction of Little Rock is currently building near U.S. High- way 49. Once installed, energy production from the solar panels will offset current electric utility consumption for the Phillips County courthouse, health department and renovated John Deere building, which will house county and city staff. Vance said the solar powered system, which will include 1,194 panels on 1.25 acres of county land, will be combined with new lighting and other energy efficiency upgrades guar- anteed to produce a minimum of $81,380 savings annually for the county. Over the 30-year lifetime of the project, there will be over $2 million in savings, he said. Te Phillips County energy efficiency and solar system proj-


ects are expected to begin this summer and scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2019. Vance said Phillips County will be the second county in the state of Arkansas to install a solar system and the first to use the sun-fueled energy source to power county facilities. “Phillips County is proud to be engaged in using renewable energy sources to offset the county’s carbon footprint,” said Judge Hall. “We are excited this project will save the taxpayers over $2 million over the life of this project.”


Session Results: ‘Booming Interest’ in Solar Projects


According to Vance and Katie Niebaum, executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, the main reason for the “booming interest” in such projects is the Solar Access Act sponsored by Sen. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, during the recent legislative session, along with two other energy priority bills supported by the state’s advanced energy sector. During debate in the legislative session on Wallace’s Senate


Bill 145 that is now the Solar Access Act, Public Service Com- mission Chairman Ted Tomas said the “big picture” legisla- tion to expand the state’s solar marketplace could be a boon for the Arkansas economy — if policymakers are willing to adopt a free market approach that encourages new technologies. After the bill was easily approved by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson during a well-attended ceremony at the state Capitol, Niebaum said at the time that SB 145 would enhance access to low-cost solar energy by en- abling third-party financing options. Under the new legislation, the solar array size limit for commercial and industrial net-metering customers increased from 300 kw to 1 MW, cutting red tape and reducing lead- time for projects, supporters say. Te measure also adds a grandfathering provision to provide market certainty for


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customers that submit a standard interconnection agreement before Dec. 31, 2022. As noted by Vance, this financing tool is particularly im-


portant for non-tax entities, such as schools, churches, cities and counties, colleges and universities, state agencies, and non-profits. Now with the option of a third-party solar ser- vices contract, these non-tax entities can take full advantage of federal incentives and unlock capital to invest in local com- munities, he said. Besides Wallace’s legislation, Niebaum also highlights Acts 507 and 1090 that were enacted into law during the session. Tey will also help spur greater adoption of advanced energy solutions and savings for renewable power users, she said. Act 507, sponsored by Sen. Lance Eads, R-Springdale, pro- vides public entities with additional flexibility and support utilizing the state’s Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting (AEPC) program. Te legislation will allow a guaranteed ener- gy cost savings contract to align the measure’s active warranty period or combined useful life, instead of capping a contract at 20 years under current law. Te bill also allows school districts to opt into the existing program. Act 1090, sponsored by Sen Keith Ingram, D-West Mem- phis, amends the state’s Local Government Capital Improve- ment Revenue Bond Act for performance-based efficiency projects. It is designed to help municipalities utilize revenue bonds to fund projects under the AEPC program. “Advanced energy technologies are an economic driver for


the state,” said Niebaum. “Tanks to the engagement and ef- fective leadership of these legislators, more Arkansans will reap the benefits of advanced energy solutions and advanced energy jobs will continue to grow.” Now with the Phillips County project on its plate, Vance


said Entegrity has been contacted by several cities and coun- ties, schools and other government agencies in the Delta and Northeast region of the state that are also interested in similar projects as the price tag for such renewable energy develop- ments continues to decline. He said the energy services firm’s pipeline for such projects is growing as local officials learn more about the new laws. “We are in talks with many, many entities and, surprisingly it is coming out of that Northeast and Southeast Delta region right now,” he said. “A lot of that is because of land, and a lot of that they are looking at their (economic) situation and say- ing, ‘how can we be different?’”


Talk Business & Politics is a news website that covers business, politics and culture across all the Arkansas regions.


COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2019


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