CENTRAL ARKANSAS — The idea of using the sun to create energy has been around for decades, yet less than one percent of Arkansas’ electricity comes from solar.
In recent weeks, a handful of organizations have turned to solar power.
A tranquil setting at Audubon Arkansas: a cozy habitat for birds whose building runs off the sun.
It’s a trend picking up in momentum.
Because while it may not look like much now, a field on Richie Road in Cabot will house a 4.8 megawatt solar facility for Central Arkansas Water.
“This is going to offset about 20 percent of our current power costs,” said Douglas Shackelford of Central Arkansas Water.
It’s a move that’ll save the utility about $7 million over the next 20 to 30 years. And Shackelford says this is just the beginning.
“We are going to add solar panels to some of our treatment facilities,” Shackelford said.
And less operational costs mean savings for the customer.
This idea is catching on.
At Audubon Arkansas, their panels will help reduce carbon emissions.
Pulaski County just flipped the switch with the goal of saving money.
And the City of England is planning for solar to pump electricity to its courthouse and parks system.
“You’re seeing these projects all over the state of Arkansas,” said Bill Halter of Scenic Hill Solar.
Halter says Arkansas has been behind the trend largely because the right policies weren’t in place.
“Two years ago, we began putting together some public policies that really make sense for the solar industry and for rate-payers of Arkansas,” said Halter.
The goal now, he says, is to keep it that way.
“It’s important for Arkansas policy makers to nurture that, to protect that, because it’s in the long run interest of all Arkansans,” said Halter.
To have choices when it comes to energy sources and Halter said, a reduction in costs.
The Natural State tapping into its natural resources to save consumers money and protect its namesake.
So far, the state has invested $469 million in solar. That’s provided more than 300 jobs for Arkansans.