Your Guide to Solar Panels in Arkansas: 7 Steps to Solar Panels in Arkansas
By Dan Simms /
Arkansas residents enjoy decent solar incentives and below-average pricing on a per-watt basis. These both contribute to average savings in the state that total over $15,500 from solar conversion.
Arkansas ranks 32nd for its solar adoption rate, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Despite its low popularity, most Arkansas residents find that solar adoption is a great option from a financial perspective.
Although the total solar panel cost in Arkansas is above average due to large system size requirements, most systems pay for themselves in around 13 years and provide massive energy savings thereafter that make adoption worthwhile.
Plus, the solar incentives and rebates available in AR make solar adoption affordable, especially given the variety of payment options available.
In this guide, we’ll be discussing the process of solar conversion, from researching your home’s solar viability to connecting your installed system to the grid to generate power. You can use the links below to jump to a specific section if needed.
Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels
Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider
Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract
Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day
Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels
Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO)
First, we would be remiss if we didn’t explain some of the research you should do before you dive into solar conversion. We’ll discuss how to decide if solar is right for you in the following sections.
Most Arkansas homeowners will find that their solar energy systems pay for themselves over time and provide significant savings after that payback period. Still, it’s important to confirm that solar is a good option for your specific property, as many things can influence solar viability.
We recommend starting the research process by determining what size system you’ll need to offset your energy needs. The average system in the area is 11 kilowatts (kW). Factors like tree coverage and the direction your roof faces can influence your system size, so if yours is much bigger than 11 kW, the value of your panels will be a bit below average for the area.
Next, you should consider the weather conditions in your area. Arkansas as a whole sees around 217 sunny days annually, which is above average for the U.S.2
Most cities will get plenty of sun, but those that get much less than the state average will see a slightly lower return on investment (ROI) over time. Panels generate less power in cloudy conditions, so areas with less sun will see less production and fewer savings.
In most states, it’s important to consider the net metering policy made available by local power companies. Net energy metering (NEM) tracks your production and energy usage through interconnection and bills you for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) pulled from the power grid less each kWh sent to the grid, given a one-to-one credit ratio. This effectively reduces your electricity rates.
Thankfully, the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) mandates net metering programs throughout the state, so all solar customers have access to the policy. Best of all, it sets the credit rate equal to the full retail rate for energy. That means every additional kWh you send to the grid can offset one kWh you pull from the grid in the future. This is the best-case scenario.
Just to confirm, all public utility companies in the state provide access to NEM, including the following:
The table below includes some solar statistics specific to Arkansas customers as well as solar adoption throughout the nation. This should explain how valuable solar is in your area compared to the rest of the country.
|Arkansas State Average||United States National Average|
|Solar Power System Size Required||11 kW||9 kW|
|Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment||$2.54||$2.66|
|Average Total System Cost Before Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit||$27,940||$23,940|
|Average Federal Solar Tax Credit Value||$8,382||$7,182|
|Average Total System Cost After Federal Credit||$19,558||$16,758|
|Average Panel Payback Period||13 years||12 years|
|Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar||$15,567||$22,379|
As you can see, solar isn’t quite as valuable in Arkansas as it is in most other states, but the savings still show immense promise.
Once you’re sure that solar is a good option for your home, you can start thinking about your budget and which solar payment options work for you.
If you haven’t used our solar calculator already to see how big of a solar power system you need, you should do that now. Understanding your size requirements will help you get a good estimate of your total costs. Keep in mind that your costs might seem high, but eventually, your panels will pay for themselves and provide additional savings.
There are four common ways to pay for PV panels in AR, which we’ll discuss briefly below.
An important consideration when you’re choosing a payment option is the panel payback period. Arrangements that have a payback period will lead to panel ownership, and your savings will spike after that point. Cash payments and solar loans both have payback periods, so they provide the greatest potential for energy savings in the long run.
We should also mention that Arkansas has a Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing option. This is a financing option for low-income residents that keeps initial costs and interest rates down for converting to renewable energy sources.3
Your payments would be added to your tax bill for convenience, although this can cause issues if you go to sell your home before the loan is paid off.
After you have your budget and financing information in order, you can start reaching out to solar companies in Arkansas. We’ll briefly go into how to choose an installer and what to expect during the quoting process in the following sections.
Although there are only 14 solar companies in your state, choosing the one that meets your needs and fits your budget the best will likely prove to be a challenge.4 Ideally, you want to find a company that services your area and meets all of the following criteria:
Below are some of the companies we recommend in Arkansas that meet most or all of the above criteria:
You can read more about why we’ve chosen to highlight these companies and other things we suggest looking for in a company in our guide to choosing a reliable solar installer in Arkansas.
Within a day or two of providing your contact information to an installer, a sales representative should contact you. They will likely ask you for a recent utility bill and information about your energy consumption, including what in your home is powered by electricity. Finally, they’ll schedule a consultation with you. This can either be done virtually or in person.
At some point, your rep will schedule an in-person property inspection so they can take roof measurements and assess your home for shading and sun exposure. Once that’s completed, your solar project will move through design, and you’ll get a solar proposal emailed to you from your sales rep. Most reps will also call to discuss the proposal.
Your solar proposal is the formal bid for work to be completed on your home, so it should contain all of the information you need to decide if it’s the route you want to go. Among other things, your proposal will include the following:
Contacting solar providers, setting up consultations and requesting free quotes can be a time-consuming process. However, we recommend doing it at least two or three times before you choose one with which you’ll move forward.
Getting multiple solar quotes lets you compare and choose the best value within your budget, and some companies will price match if you have quotes from competitors, which can also save you money.
When you’re reaching out for solar estimates, you should include all of the equipment you want to be installed in your request. All systems will consist of at least panels and inverters or microinverters, but you might want to consider add-on products as well. We’ll include a quick breakdown of the most common add-on options in Arkansas below.
Once you have your system specifics squared away and you’re confident you know which installer you’re going to go with, you can move forward to signing the solar contract. We’ll detail this process and what to look for in your contract in the following sections.
One of the first things we suggest you read through in your solar contract is the information pertaining to your warranty coverage. You might see your warranties broken down into three types:
You can expect to wait for between three and six months between the time you sign your solar contract to the day your panels are commissioned and start generating power for your home. There are a few factors that decide where in that range you’ll fall, including the following:
Weather is another factor that can lead to short delays, as installing rooftop solar equipment isn’t safe in the rain or snow.
While the State of Arkansas doesn’t mandate building permits or electrical permits for solar system installation, every municipality within the state does.
Your installation company should be filing for the necessary permits before it begins any work on your home. While the installer is responsible for filing for and closing our permits, you will be responsible for paying any permit fees. The fees should be included in your total on your solar proposal. Every municipality has a different fee schedule and permitting process.
For example, the City of Little Rock charges a flat rate of $30 for the first $2,000 worth of the project cost, plus $3.50 per $1,000 thereafter.9 Given the average cost to go solar in the area, that’s a total of around $117. The City of Fort Smith has an online permit application and charges $40 for a permit for a system over 3 kW, which most residential systems in the state will be.10
Fayetteville also bases its electrical permit fees on the cost of labor and materials. Based on the typical system cost in the area, you can expect your permit to cost around $150.11
Most solar customers in the state will be looking at fees between $50 and $200. You can ask your solar contractor for confirmation, or you can reach out to your building department.
In addition to applying for building or electrical permits, your installer should also apply for interconnection for you. Interconnection is the process that governs how your solar system interacts with the electric grid. As you might imagine, interconnection is what allows for net metering, so it’s a critical part of the solar system installation process.
Every energy company in Arkansas has a slightly different process for interconnection. For example, Entergy requires that your solar contractor send in a preliminary interconnection site review request, followed by a standard interconnection agreement.12 There is no fee for filing either set of documents.
AEP SWEPCO uses an online service called PowerClerk to handle interconnection applications. Your installer can access the portal and apply directly online, and no fees are required.13
OG&E requires a simple application, although it’s not available online.14 The company doesn’t charge installers or homeowners for the application.
Going through the steps to apply for interconnection might seem unnecessary, but it helps ensure that your system is connected to the grid safely. The time it might add to your installation timeline is well worth it, as it allows you access to Arkansas’ outstanding net energy metering policy.
Once the applications for interconnection and permits are taken care of and approved, your PV system installer will schedule the installation day. Many solar customers ask, “do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” You should absolutely plan on being home all day when your PV panels are being installed.
Throughout the day, you might be required to provide access to your home’s interior for the installation team. The technicians will need access to connect to your electrical panel as well as to install any add-on equipment, like solar batteries, that will be mounted inside your home.
On average, in Arkansas, solar installations take between five and ten hours, which is a little above average due to the large system size. Solar inspections take around 30 minutes in most cases, so if your contractor schedules the inspection with your power company on the installation day, that can add to your timeline.
After the system is installed, your building department will need to carry out a final inspection to finalize your permits and close them out. Closing out permits is important because open permits can cause issues with the resale of your home, and they could lead to violations and assessments.
Some inspectors will be able to do drive-by inspections if you only have panels installed, while others will request interior access. Access will be required if you have add-on products installed in your garage or other interior spaces to ensure everything is done in accordance with the fire code.
Inspections don’t cost anything the first time, but if you miss your scheduled appointment, you might have to pay for another inspection. In each case, your installer should help coordinate the inspection or connect you with the inspector to coordinate together.
While the building inspector will ensure your system is installed properly during the inspection, you’ll be responsible for making sure it continues to function properly after the inspection. Some solar manufacturers will include access to a free solar monitoring app, which your installer can set up for you. You can use this to keep an eye on performance.
The final step in the process is getting permission to operate (PTO) from your utility company, which it will only grant after it completes its own inspection of the connection to the grid. In many cases, this inspection will be done on the installation day to avoid delays in system activation, but it might need to be scheduled afterward.
Your installation company should schedule this inspection, and you shouldn’t need to be home for it.
Once PTO is granted, your installer will activate your system. They should also discuss any solar monitoring software included with your equipment and show you where your emergency shut-off is.
The only additional information you need at this point is what to do in case of an emergency with your system, like an electrical fire. First, dial 911 and report the issue. Next, notify your power company via its emergency hotline. We’ll list emergency numbers for some of the electricity providers in the state below.
Finally, you can kick back, relax and enjoy the many benefits your panels provide to you. You should start seeing decreased monthly energy bills and NEM energy credits accruing on your account. Your carbon footprint and emissions will also be reduced, and you’ll be doing your part to promote renewable energy.
We should also mention that your solar electric system is expected to provide some ROI even if you sell your home. Installing solar makes your home more valuable, so you may see a profit even if you sell your property after completing the conversion process.
Choosing an installer for your solar project is one of your most important decisions when making the switch to clean energy. Deciding which is best for your needs and budget can take some intensive research and effort.
Below, we’ll provide some links to solar installation company reviews in some of the major cities in AR to help you narrow down your options.
If you need additional company recommendations or you live outside of these major cities in AR, you can check out our guide to the top solar installers in AR.
Below, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions we see from Arkansans about the process of solar adoption.
Unfortunately, yes, homeowners associations (HOAs) can ban or restrict solar adoption in Arkansas. The state is one of the few that have yet to enact solar rights and easement laws. Until it does, HOAs and other governing bodies will have the power to prevent residents in their jurisdictions from going solar.
Arkansas is ranked quite low in the nation in terms of solar adoption, but that certainly doesn’t mean residents don’t find solar massively beneficial. The average solar customer in the state will find that their panels pay for themselves in around 13 years. Over the rest of the system’s expected lifespan, it should save an additional $15,500+.
All in all, solar is a little less valuable in the Land of Opportunity than in most other states, but PV panels should still be worth it for most Arkansans.
The average lifespan of a solar array is around 25 years, which is how long most equipment warranties last. The state sees its fair share of extreme weather, including thunderstorms and tornadoes, but the typical system should still last and continue producing power for between 20 and 25 years in Arkansas.
Unfortunately, the Arkansas solar incentives and rebate programs don’t include either a sales tax exemption or a property tax exemption. You’ll have to pay sales tax on all PV equipment and installation labor, and your property taxes are subject to increase due to solar conversion.
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