Arkansas could produce 800 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year from corn and sorghum, which could displace nearly 40 percent of all the gasoline consumed in the state

If Arkansas lives up to its nickname as the Land of Opportunity, homegrown energy could power every single home in the state, with wattage to spare.[1] Today, Arkansas generates nearly half its electricity from coal-fired power plants, and most of the remainder from nuclear power and natural gas.[2]

Much of Arkansas' renewable energy potential lies in the rich farmlands of the Mississippi Delta region, which could provide renewable fuels for biomass power plants and advanced biofuels for cars.[3] [4] Solar and wind energy also remain largely untapped in Arkansas, and could provide important opportunities for economic growth. Major manufacturers in the wind industry have set up shop in the state in recent years, creating thousands of jobs.

With the proper mix of incentives in place, Arkansas could further develop its renewable energy potential. Arkansas, however, remains in the small minority of states without a renewable portfolio standard, which would drive investment in homegrown renewable energy development by requiring utilities to generate or purchase an increasing portion of their electricity from renewable sources.

Wind Energy

wind turbine installation

Courtesy of LM Wind Power

Little Rock is home to LM Wind Power, the world's leading supplier of rotor blades for wind turbines. The company plans to employ more than 1,000 people there over its first five years

With just a handful of turbines up and running, the state has yet to capture much of its available wind resources.[5] Arkansas ranks 27th among the 50 states in wind energy potential, with an available wind resource of 9,200 megawatts at 80 meters.[6] [7] However, Arkansas is sharing in the economic benefits of the growing wind energy industry: LM Wind Power, the world's leading supplier of rotor blades for wind turbines, opened its North American headquarters in Little Rock in 2008. Nordex, a German maker of turbine components, set up shop in Jonesboro in late 2010. And Beckmann Volmer, a steel components manufacturer, has announced plans to build a factory in Osceola to supply the Nordex plant.[8]

The American Wind Energy Association estimates that current operational and planned wind-related manufacturing facilities will create nearly 3,000 jobs in Arkansas.[9]

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol


Biomass power could generate 50 percent more electricity than the amount used by all of Arkansas' homes put together

More than half of Arkansas' land is covered by commercially owned forests, and the state's forest industries already generate 50 percent of their energy from wood waste and mill residues.[10] [11] Arkansas homes and businesses could also be powered with biomass fuels from urban and forestry wood waste, agricultural waste and energy crops.

The Arkansas Energy Office estimates that local biomass power could generate 19.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. That's enough to power nearly 2 million average homes -- and a whopping 50 percent more than the electricity currently consumed by all of Arkansas' homes put together.[12]

The best biofuels protect the environment and food supplies while improving the economic welfare of workers and communities. Cellulosic ethanol, which is made from crop waste and non-food crops, such as switchgrass, is the biofuel of the future. It can produce four to ten times as much energy as corn ethanol without swallowing up huge tracts of food-growing farmland or forests. Cellulosic ethanol could become big business in Arkansas. According to the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, Arkansas could produce 800 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year from corn and sorghum, an amount that would displace nearly 40 percent of all the gasoline consumed in the state.[13]

Solar Energy


Arkansas is bathed in plentiful sunshine, receiving on average more than 5,000 watts per square meter.[14] Roughly 50 solar arrays are installed around the state, including rooftop panels at Fayetteville High School and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, with a total capacity of 151 kilowatts.[15]

The Fayetteville Public Library installed 48 solar panels on its roof in mid-2010.[16] The project will not only generate electricity for the library, but will also serve as a test bed for a new, energy-efficient inverter technology being developed by Fayetteville's Arkansas Power Electronics International.

Renewable Energy Meets Wildland and Wildlife Conservation

Certain sensitive lands -- such as parks, monuments and wildlife conservation areas -- and ecologically sensitive marine areas are not appropriate for energy development. In some of these places, energy development is prohibited or limited by law or policy, and in others it would be highly controversial. NRDC does not endorse locating energy facilities or transmission lines in such areas. Siting decisions must always be made extremely carefully, with impacts mitigated and operations conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

For more information on the intersection between clean energy development and wildland and wildlife conservation in the American West, including locations of parks, wildlife refuges and other conservation areas, see this Google Earth-based feature.


Economic Incentives for Renewable Energy Projects in Arkansas

The Arkansas Energy Office lists renewable energy incentives and programs for residents, businesses, industry and public buildings. See also their Consumer's Guide to Renewable Energy in Arkansas.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency lists federal, state and local government incentives for renewable energy projects in Arkansas.

Arkansas' net-metering program allows renewable energy electricity producers to rack up credits on their energy bills for any excess electricity they produce in a given year.

Wind Energy

Arkansas residents can take advantage of the state's new wind anemometer loan program, established in 2009, which helps landowners measure the wind energy potential on their holdings.

The Arkansas Energy Office provides a list of local wind energy contractors.

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol

The Arkansas Biomass Resources Assessment provides detailed information, maps and raw data on the state's potential biomass resources, which can help users quantify biomass feedstock and identify promising areas for biomass energy production.

The Arkansas Energy Office lists federal and state incentives for the use and production of biofuels.

The Farm Bureau of Arkansas has a searchable database of biofuels suppliers in the state.

Solar Energy

The Arkansas Energy Office lists local solar power contractors as well as federal and state incentives for solar power.

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