They rolled up the solar panels, fired ‘em up, and the first Advanced Energy Day at the Legislature on Wednesday at the Arkansas State Capitol was a success, by all accounts.
The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, created last year, is the state affiliate of the national AEE. Its mission is to promote greater public understanding of the advanced (alternate) energy sector. On Wednesday, its mission was to introduce itself to Arkansas lawmakers.
AAEA director Steve Patterson thinks it was mission accomplished. He told INOV8 there was lots of interest from legislators of both political stripes and the general public throughout the afternoon at the Capitol. Several lawmakers joined in a late afternoon panel discussion with state industry leaders, including Rep. Walls McCray, D-Lonoke, a three-term legislator, and freshman Rep. John Hutchison, R-Harrisburg.
The day entailed advanced energy exhibits from Arkansas companies set up for display in the Capitol rotunda. All exhibits were powered by solar panels from AAEA member Stellar Sun that were parked in front of the Capitol. In addition, Pulaski Tech’s Mobile Weatherization Lab was out front, too. Patterson called it a great display.
Industry leaders then held a panel discussion in a House committee room, discussing the challenges faced by advanced energy firms in today’s marketplace and how they believe advanced energy represents the country’s best way forward.
Industry leaders and companies represented included David Baker of FutureFuel; Mike Callan, president of Arkansas Oklahoma Gas; John Malinowski of Baldor Electric; Steve Packard of Schneider Electric; Naomi Lovinger, head of communications for Nordex USA (she spoke earlier in the day at the Clinton School for Public Service); Mario Hurtado, Clean Line Energy Partners, and Pam Speraw, Sun City Solar Energy.
Patterson said he hopes Wednesday’s events will help legislators recognize the value of advanced energy firms in Arkansas. The AAEA likes to bill “more jobs, more energy options,” and Patterson thinks that’s a formula hard to dismiss.
In fact, the AAEA released a report that said about 11,337 Arkansans are employed by 90-plus advanced energy companies in the state as of 2010. The national AEE last week said advanced energy represented a $1.1 trillion global market in 2011 (larger than pharmaceutical manufacturing). In the U.S., advanced energy was a $132 billion industry in 2011, according to AEE, and with a growth rate of 19 percent (to $157 billion) expected for 2012.
All told, a good day for advanced energy in Arkansas. Patterson said progress was made — a couple of years ago, no one in Arkansas thought about advanced energy, he said. Arkansas has been ahead of the curve, one of just eight AEE local chapters. Other chapters are located in Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina with a New England chapter as well.
Chapters are in development in California, Alaska, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington (state), Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia.
Patterson hopes Advanced Energy Day at the Legislature can become an annual thing. They’re off to a good start.