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New bill makes solar more accessible, viable for large farmers and schools.

Forrest Laws

May 11, 2020

Last July, the Arkansas Legislature passed a new law that increased the size of solar power systems that could be installed without Public Service Commission approval and allowed third-party ownership of solar power systems.

Those two steps are making it easier for Arkansas growers to install solar power and benefit from reduced energy costs and federal and state tax credits for alternative energy sources.

“On July 24, 2019, your state senator, David Wallace in the Monette and Leachville areas, helped pass a new bill which makes solar more accessible and more viable for large farmers and schools,” said John Sawyer, CEO of Stone Creek Solar in Jonesboro, Ark.

“Before you could only go up to 300 kilowatt hours, which is about the size of Tim’s system, before you had to ask for Public Service Commission approval,” said Sawyer, referring to a presentation by Tim Covington, farmer from Jonesboro, Ark., who preceded Sawyer at the Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference.

The new law increased the limit to 1,000 kilowatt hours before the installation required PSC approval. The law also made it possible for outside ownership of a solar panel system.

“Grandpa owns the farm or an investor owns the farm or someone sells the farm and has a big tax burden this year,” said Sawyer. “That person can build a solar array and let the tenant use the solar power for a discounted fee, and the owner of the solar array could take the tax benefits and the depreciation benefits.”

Related:Solar power equals long-term savings for Arkansas grower

The investment tax credit, also known as the federal solar tax credit, allows the owner to deduct 26 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from the owner’s federal taxes.

“It was 30 percent, but on Jan. 1, it went to 26 percent,” he said. “There are lobbying groups that are pushing hard to get it back to 30, and I hope they are successful.”

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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