LITTLE ROCK — Solar panels installed in 2009 outside the State Library with $550,000 in federal stimulus money and featured in an anti-government ad were finally turned on Tuesday.
"They were flipped on at 8 a.m. this morning," said Joe Holmes, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. "This has been going on for a long, long time and finally an agreement has been reached with the (Arkansas Building Authority)."
The solar panels are a key component of the state library’s environmentally friendly character and are expected to generate as much as 3 percent of the building’s energy needs.
They have been idle for about three years because of a legal dispute between Arkansas Tech University and Entergy Arkansas, which is the energy provider for the State Library.
At issue was whether the state constitution prohibited the state, including higher education institutions, from entering indemnification agreements with corporations.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission ruled in Tech’s favor, saying the state could not be indemnified. The state Court of Appeals later upheld the PSC, ruling that it was unconstitutional to require a state entity to sign such an agreement.
The state Supreme Court declined Entergy’s petition for review and referred it back to the PSC, which in June removed state entities from indemnification requirements.
"The PSC removed all that indemnification language, saying it would not apply to state agencies, federal agencies and local municipalities," said Susan Wilson, deputy director of the Arkansas State Building Authority.
The Legislative Council in July reviewed the new rules, and in August the PSC approved the new tariff agreement with Entergy.
In May, the solar panels were featured in an anti-government waste online ad by Americans For Prosperity, a conservative group that promotes limited government, to detail what it sees as wasteful spending by both state and federal governments.
Arkansas received $3.54 billion in federal stimulus money for public education, highways, housing and community development, energy and weatherization, natural resources, the state Department of Human Services, public safety, public transportation and environmental programs.