Report: Moving to Clean Energy Would Drive Job Growth and Economic Recovery in Arkansas

State stands to gain 18,000 jobs through policies to promote renewable energy

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (November 19, 2009) – Shifting to renewable energy sources, such as wind and bio-energy, would bring significant job growth, economic investment and revenues to Arkansas’ struggling rural communities, according to a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). These benefits would be enhanced through clean energy and climate legislation that is currently moving through the U.S. Senate.

“After suffering significant job losses, Arkansas is well-positioned to become a leader in producing the clean energy that America needs,” said Martin R. Cohen, author of the report and an independent energy policy. “The state’s dependable workforce and strong business community provide the tools for leadership in manufacturing equipment for clean energy industries.”

The new report, called “A Clean Energy Economy for Arkansas: Analysis of the Rural Economic Development Potential of Renewable Resources,”examines the potential for renewable energy resource development, specifically looking at how the state’s rural communities stand to benefit. According to the report, investment in renewable energy would create as many as 18,000 new Arkansas jobs and provide a boost to rural communities across the state.

Chris Callahan, CEO, NextGen Ilumination, in Fayetteville, Ark., said: “Energy efficiency is one of the most powerful ways of reducing emissions. In addition, it can significantly lower energy costs for Arkansas citizens. NexGen Illumination has helped Arkansas to reduce energy consumption, minimizing waste and saving them money in energy and labor costs as well as creating new jobs within the state. Arkansas benefits not only environmentally, but economically, by adopting new energy efficiency technology.”

Nathan Wilson, manager, Winds of Change Leaseholding, in Rogers, Ark.,said: "Harnessing wind energy not only reduces Arkansas' carbon footprint, it does so while economically benefiting rural areas of the state. Winds of Change has worked to develop community wind farms where both investors and landowners work towards an uncommon benefit.  Wind farms can create Arkansas jobs and harness Arkansas energy while giving a much-needed boost to economically struggling areas of the state." 

Christopher Charlton, wind specialist, Greenway Renewable Energy, in Weiner, Ark., said: “At Greenway Renewable Energy, we recognize that agriculture and wind power are not separate ideas, they actually fit hand in hand. When it comes to paying for energy costs, we all lose our independence the moment we pay someone else for it.  To break this cycle, we invite hard working farmers to expand their idea of farming to include the wind above their fields. You wouldn't pay for corn when you can grow it yourself, so why work hard to pay for your electricity when the skies are filled with it?”

The new report finds renewable energy in Arkansas provides significant opportunity for economic growth that is environmentally sustainable in rural communities. The report also finds the potential of new income sources for farmers from emerging clean energy technologies, particularly wind, biofuels, biopower, and biogas.

  • Wind Power. A federal government study projects that 1,000 megawatts of Arkansas wind power—about eight or ten utility-scale wind farms—would create $830 million in economic benefits over 20 years, 3,496 construction and locally stimulated indirect jobs, and 504 permanent operations jobs.
  • Biofuels. Cellulosic ethanol—made from organic waste materials, crop residue, and non-food plants, instead of edible sugars and starches, and biodiesel—made from algae instead of soybeans, are the next generation of smart biofuels. Arkansas is perfectly situated to become a center of the next generation biofuels production. Existing usable Arkansas crop and timber residues are sufficient to produce 770 million gallons of transportation fuels each year, equivalent to 50 percent of all the gasoline used in Arkansas. An average rice farm could see potential gross revenue of $38,000 from harvesting biomass residue. Ten cellulosic plants, each with a 50 million gallon capacity, would create 2,090 long-term jobs, and $216 million in annual economic activity;.
  • Biopower. Electricity generation that combines solid biomass with coal at existing power plants would be a relatively low-cost way to ramp up renewable resource development in Arkansas and cut back on coal consumption. Many sources of biomass are renewable fuels that can be stored to make biopower whenever they are needed, making them a perfect complement to the variable output of wind and solar power. If 10 percent of Arkansas’ coal-fired power capacity were replaced with biopower plants, more than 700 new long-term jobs would be created, not including new agricultural jobs to produce and harvest the biomass fuel.

A Clean Energy Economy for Arkansas: Analysis of the Rural Economic Development Potential of Renewable Resources” is available online. Click to download an audio replay of the Arkansas news event.