Solar power in Arkansas received a boost this week with the announcement of an exclusive agreement between a new Arkansas Electric Cooperatives subsidiary and an innovative Minneapolis solar panel company called tenKsolar.

Solar power in Arkansas received a boost this week with the announcement of an exclusive agreement between a new Arkansas Electric Cooperatives subsidiary and an innovative Minneapolis solar panel company called tenKsolar.

The move by Today’s Power Inc., which was formed by Arkansas Electric Cooperatives in December, makes it the largest solar initiative in the state for the electric company, which serves approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses.

The new subsidiary of this 66-year-old statewide electric cooperative was formed to provide renewable energy solutions, energy efficiency programs, and emergency backup generators for large commercial, industrial or utility customers.

The tenKsolar agreement allows Today’s Power Inc. to become an authorized distributor and installer of tenKsolar products in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri. The solar panel company, which was formed in 2008, offers turnkey commercial rooftop solar arrays and basically had "built a better mouse trap," said Bret Curry, manager of residential marketing for the Electric Cooperatives.

"It’s a quality product and we feel good about it," Today’s Power President Michael Henderson said. "What this does is basically marry a good product with limited distribution services with a company that has distribution. We’ll be a known counterpart for people investing in solar power. People feel comfortable with us because we do what we say we’re going to do. We’re not just some fly-by-night operation."

Part of what attracted Today’s Power to tenKsolar, Henderson added, was that the solar panel maker offered a safer low-voltage system with high-energy density panels. Typical 1 megawatt panel arrays take up 5.5 acres, he said. The 1 megawatt array from tenKsolar takes up just 3.5 acres.

Building "community solar" arrays is also an objective of the Electric Cooperatives. As seen in other states, like tenKsolar’s home state of Minnesota, community gardens allow customers to buy panels or subscriptions from developers who manage and operate the systems. Customers can buy up to 120 percent of their energy needs, or as little as one panel. They receive a credit on their utility bills based on the output of their panels.

"We examined many solar products and found the tenKsolar technology to be more productive and efficient, as well as being better-suited for community solar, commercial and utility-scale solar energy projects," Henderson said. "We believe developing a mix of energy resources is smart strategic planning for our customers."

Arkansas has a yearly net metering law, which allows homeowners and businesses to connect a renewable energy system to the meter at no charge. By doing this, users only have to pay for the net electricity they use, and energy produced on site feeds back into the grid.

Greg Davis, spokesman for the Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corporation, said that the move with tenKsolar was a good one.

"It’s smart in the sense that solar prices have gone down and they are going to become at some point feasible for some companies depending on what their needs are," Davis said.

Henderson went on to say that large-scale solar projects have been cost-prohibitive for many years, but the economics for solar power has continued "to improve and become more attractive for entities that want to invest in the technology."

A reflector is used in one of the optional systems to maximize efficiency. Because of the cell level control, partial shading or soiling won’t cripple module production, tenKsolar states.

Joel Cannon, CEO of tenKsolar, stated in the news release that the partnership with Today’s Power would "provide a distribution footprint" into the Midsouth for its tenKsolar "Reflect and Duo photovoltaic systems."

In December, tenKsolar announced the expansion of its production lines with new manufacturing facilities in Thailand to meet rising demand. This added to tenKsolar’s existing manufacturing facilities operating in Shanghai and Minneapolis.

"Over the last year, customer demand has forced us to drastically increase our production operations twice, and 2015 shows no sign of slowing down," Cannon said in December. "This expansion allows us to diversify our supply chain and provide our customers certainty of timely supply for volume deliveries."

The company added four assembly lines to its contract manufacturing partner in Thailand and positioned tenKsolar as a "go-to supplier for customers concerned," Cannon said in consideration of recent U.S. trade actions against China and Taiwan. Shipments from the Thailand facilities began this month.

"Our supply chain is diversified, and we strive to source and build as competitively as possible," Cannon states on the company’s website. "We’ve also always focused on making solar better through design, because big, highly competitive markets demand innovation. If other U.S. companies want to succeed in the highly competitive solar technology market, innovation should be their focus, not bending the trade rules to their liking. After all, in a global marketplace, you can only run and hide from competition for so long."