Energy Innovation Day held at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville brought together energy leaders from Arkansas to discuss ongoing projects and explore potential federal funding opportunities.

The event, hosted by various organizations including the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, shed light on the significance of energy efficiency and sustainability for businesses in the state.

Lisa Perry, senior manager of Energy Services at Walmart, emphasized the importance of energy efficiency for the retail giant, highlighting that utility expenses, particularly electricity, are a significant cost factor. Perry shared Walmart’s plans to invest in its own DC fast chargers for electric vehicles (EV) at their stores, aiming to eliminate carbon emissions globally. The company also intends to transition to electric, hydrogen, and compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks, setting ambitious goals to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2035.

Tom Waggoner, CEO of Syntex Industries LLC, discussed the challenges associated with hydrogen trucks and proposed building hydrogen fueling stations at strategic intervals along interstates. He suggested establishing a transportation hub along I-40, serving regions such as Oklahoma City to Memphis and Kansas City to New Orleans. Waggoner also highlighted the company’s plans to build a hydrogen power plant in Clarksville, which would generate emission-free electricity and contribute to the economic growth of the area.

Becky Keogh, infrastructure coordinator for the state of Arkansas, shared that an announcement regarding federal funding for the HALO Hydrogen Hub project is expected in September. This bipartisan partnership between Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma could receive up to $1.25 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for technology investments in the three states.

Glen Hooks, policy manager for Audubon Delta, discussed the opportunities presented by the Inflation Reduction Act and highlighted the potential for electric cooperatives to build renewable energy plants as a replacement for retiring coal-fired plants. Hooks emphasized the positive impact of transitioning to clean energy, including lower electric rates, improved public health, job creation, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Arkansas aims to leverage federal funding and prioritize investment in renewable energy to drive economic growth, reduce emissions, and foster sustainable development. The discussions during Energy Innovation Day underscored the urgency of the energy transition and the need for collaborative efforts to achieve a clean and prosperous future.

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