Your Guide to Solar Panels in Arkansas: 7 Steps to Solar Panels in Arkansas

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.

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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)

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy

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Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels in Arkansas

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.

Research If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit For You in Arkansas

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.

Consider the Weather

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.

Consider Net Metering

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:

  • Entergy Corporation
  • Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas
  • AEP Southwestern Power Company (SWEPCO)
  • Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E)

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.

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

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.

  • Cash payments: Paying for your panels in cash means you’ll need to pay the entire cost of your system upfront, which is unrealistic for most residents. However, if you do go this route, you’ll be rewarded with the lowest system cost possible and the highest energy savings over time. Cash purchases lead to immediate panel ownership, so you can also take advantage of the federal investment tax credit (ITC).
  • Solar loans: Many solar customers choose to finance their PV systems with a solar equipment loan due to the low upfront money required. Most have low down payments or no down payments, although the interest paid over time will push up your investment and reduce your savings. Solar equipment loans still let you take the federal credit.
  • Solar leases: A solar lease is a solar equipment rental agreement through which you rent your panels and get access to all of the energy they generate. Leases yield much lower savings than paying with cash or a loan, but they have no down payment required and usually lead to immediate savings. They don’t let you take the federal credit.
  • Power purchase agreements (PPAs): A PPA is an agreement that you’ll buy solar energy from your installer at a discounted rate, but they maintain ownership of the panels. PPAs are affordable, but they don’t lead to ownership, don’t let you take any tax credits and yield lower savings than all other payment options.

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.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

arkansas solar panelsAfter 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.

Picking a Solar Installer

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:

  • The company should have at least five to ten years of experience in the local solar industry.
  • The company should have technicians that are certified by NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners).
  • The installer should offer high-quality panel brands, offer affordable pricing and accept whichever payment option you find most agreeable.
  • The provider should have good warranty coverage.
  • The provider should have mostly positive customer reviews and a favorable score from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Below are some of the companies we recommend in Arkansas that meet most or all of the above criteria:

  • SunPower — National Installer
  • Seal Solar — Local Installer
  • ADT Solar — National Installer
  • Tesla — National Installer
  • Sun Valley Renewables — Local Installer

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.

What to Expect After Requesting a Quote

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:

  • The cost of your renewable energy system before and after the federal credit is applied.
  • The size of your system and how the panels will be arranged on your roof.
  • How much energy your system is expected to generate annually, your expected panel payback period and your estimated lifetime solar savings.
  • Information on your warranty coverage.
  • Information on your payment option and when payments will be due.
  • An estimated timeline for the installation to be completed.
  • Information on any fees for inspections or permits that are included in your total.

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.

Consider Purchasing Solar Accessories

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.

  • Electric vehicle (EV) chargers: EVs are becoming more popular in Arkansas, but the charging infrastructure is one of the biggest hurdles in the way of the local electric automobile industry.5 Many solar customers opt to install at-home EV charging stations to make their EVs more practical.
  • Solar carports: Solar arrays in your state need to be around 11 kW to offset power consumption, which is well above average. Some residents opt to have solar carports installed if their roofs can’t support or fit the panels they need.
  • Energy efficiency home improvements: Arkansas residents use more electricity than residents in most other states.6 Unusually high electric bills prompt many solar customers to couple their panels with upgrades to energy efficiency, which many installers offer. These include things like smart thermostats, new roofing, new windows and doors and solar water heaters. There are a couple other ways to make your home more sustainable without spending too much.
  • Solar batteries: PV batteries are most common in states that don’t offer net metering. However, they’re popular in Arkansas because of the high risk of power outages.7 Batteries let you take your solar panel system off-grid and maintain power through blackouts. Find out which solar batteries are best in class.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in Arkansas

The federal tax credit can save you thousands come tax season
The federal tax credit can save you thousands come tax season. Credit: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

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.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in Arkansas?

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:

  • Equipment warranty: Equipment warranties should last for around 25 years, which is the industry standard. These are usually provided by the manufacturer of your panels and passed to you by your installer. They cover things like manufacturer defects and related problems.
  • Workmanship warranty: Workmanship warranties usually last for ten years, but keep in mind that some installers don’t offer them at all. These cover issues that come up because of poor installation standards on the part of your installer. Roof leak coverage is usually excluded, although some providers offer this as well. Given that the Land of Opportunity sees about 1.5x the national average annual rainfall, roof leak coverage is advisable.8
  • Efficiency warranty: Efficiency warranties cover the efficiency of energy production for your panels. The standard coverage guarantees that your panels will lose no more than 20% of their efficiency — maintaining 80% — over a period of 20 years.

When Can I Expect Solar Service to Go Live?

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:

  • How backed up your installer is with other solar projects.
  • Whether or not any of your products — like Tesla Powerwalls — are back-ordered.
  • How long it takes your building department to approve permits.
  • How long it takes your building inspector and your electric company to inspect the system after it’s installed.

Weather is another factor that can lead to short delays, as installing rooftop solar equipment isn’t safe in the rain or snow.

Solar Panel Permits in Arkansas

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.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

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.

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day in Arkansas

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.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in Arkansas

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.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in Arkansas

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.

  • Entergy Corporation: 1-800-968-8243
  • Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas: 501-570-2200
  • AEP Southwestern Power Company (SWEPCO): 1-888-218-3919
  • Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E): 1-800-722-0353

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy in Arkansas

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.

Find a Local Installer in Arkansas

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.

Aerial view of Little Rock, AR
Credit: Nicholas Henderson / Flickr

Best Solar Providers in Little Rock

Street view of downtown Conway
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Companies in Conway

Downtown Bentonville in AR
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Bentonville

Lake Ann in Bella Vista, AR
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Bella Vista

Beautiful far-off shot of Fayetteville
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Fayetteville

Street view in Springdale, AR
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Springdale

North Little Rock and the Arkansas River
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in North Little Rock

City Hall in Jacksonville, AR
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Jacksonville

Street festival in Rogers, AR
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Rogers

Main Street in Pine Bluff, AR
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Installers in Pine Bluff

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.

FAQ: Solar Panels in Arkansas

Below, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions we see from Arkansans about the process of solar adoption.

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Article author
Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.
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Expert reviewer
Kristina Zagame is a journalist, editor and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.

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