Powering Arkansas with Distributed Energy Resources

Josh Davenport Commentary

Powering Arkansas with Distributed Energy Resources

Drive by homes, farms and businesses in any corner of our state, and it's plain to see. The way Arkansans are powering their properties is changing. Today, we're no longer forced to rely on the one-way model from power plant to customer. Thanks to the widespread adoption of affordable technologies like solar panels, individuals can now produce their own energy

In Arkansas, conversations have begun about integrating distributed energy resources, or DERs, into the existing utility infrastructure. Earlier this month, the Arkansas Public Service Commission held one of many workshops on DERs. The goal: to maximize benefits for all Arkansans during our transition to a more efficient, and diversified, energy grid. 

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Here were the main takeaways:

Additional grid flexibility is needed: The U.S. government has already laid the legislative groundwork for a highly networked and optimized energy system. Unfortunately, Arkansas is ranked 34th on the national "Grid Modernization Index." As a state, we must provide our grid with additional flexibility to accommodate new technologies.

Solar is on the rise: As costs have decreased, the adoption of solar in Arkansas has significantly increased. As one participant noted, "solar clients now subsidize non-solar clients" in some areas of the state, leading to lower rates for all customers.

There's an opportunity for demand response: With DERs, commercial buildings and even homes are becoming resources for the grid. Use of demand-side resources like wind, solar and batteries will allow quicker responses and provide further real-time value for all stakeholders. 

Advanced metering is underway: Advanced metering is being adopted across the state, allowing Arkansas customers to better manage their energy consumption through data integration, real-time outage information, automated scheduling and more.

There should be transparency: Diverse stakeholders in the meeting discussed the need for visibility in the energy distribution grid emphasizing two-way communication channel between DERs and utilities.

The value of DERs needs to be recognized: As a state, we must remove barriers and create opportunities for greater adoption of DERs. To do this, Arkansas may need to consider incentivizing utilities to recognize DERs value to the grid.

The DER workshop was the beginning of a multi-meeting process, which will culminate in a final report in March 2020. In the coming months, utilities, businesses and interested parties will join together to discuss the challenges of DERs in Arkansas. Right now, the opportunities for powering our state are limitless.

Josh Davenport is co-founder and CEO of Seal Solar, a solar energy solutions firm that brings together the latest technology and a certified team to help homeowners, businesses, government entities and farmers control their rising energy costs and save money.