Archive for July 26, 2012

The Tennessee Solar Industry Association Goes on the Offensive to Stop Solar Tax

After staving off a potential tax increase during the last session of the Tennessee General Assembly, a Tennessee solar trade group is asking candidates to sign a pledge to “stop dramatic and burdensome tax increases on the solar industry.”
The Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA) announced the pledge today.
The following are excercpts from today’s TenneSEIA press release:
The Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA) announced today its efforts to educate candidates running for state office and members of the Tennessee General Assembly about the economic impacts of over taxing the solar energy industry. Earlier this year, the General Assembly considered a bill (HB3520/SB3296) to increase property taxes on the solar industry by 6,000 percent. The bill was sent to summer study and will likely surface next year.
TenneSEIA kicked off its efforts by mailing candidates a pledge asking them to, “stop dramatic and burdensome tax increases on the solar energy industry.”
“If our legislature chooses to over tax the solar energy industry, no one will invest, build or manufacture solar in Tennessee-that’s jobs and money leaving our state,” said Dean Solon, president of Shoals Technologies Group in Portland, Tennessee. Shoals employs about 400 people. “China won’t do that to you-China helps foster solar energy without over taxation. And we should know because Shoals exports to China.”

full article

Tennessee Tech University hosts second annual community energy forum

The second annual Tennessee Renewable Energy and Economic Development Council forum will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday, July 27, at TTU’s Millard Oakley STEM Center. Warren Nevad, management consultant for the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service, and Dennis Tennant, associate director of Extended Programs at TTU, will lead discussions about natural gas, solar energy, transforming solid waste to clean energy and biomass gasificaiton. There will also be a presentation about energy efficiency loan programs.

The forum is free, but seating is limited to the first 150 people. To reserve a spot, visit Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

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China Probes U.S., South Korea Solar-Grade Polysilicon

China is investigating whether exporters from the U.S. and South Korea sold solar-grade polysilicon below cost, a practice known as dumping, as part of a probe following complaints from four domestic companies.

The world’s biggest supplier of solar panels also started a countervailing duty investigation into the commodity from the U.S., China’s Ministry of Commerce said in two separate statements.

The actions escalate a trade dispute between the world’s biggest economies after the U.S. said in May it will impose duties on Chinese solar cells, which are devices made from polysilicon and assembled into panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

China will examine a tax-exemption program for the “advanced-energy manufacturing industry” promoted by the U.S. federal government and 15 state-government sponsored programs in Michigan, Tennessee, Washington and Idaho, the ministry’s statement on the countervailing duty investigation said.

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TSEA Submits DoE SunShot Grant Concept Paper

At the present time we are working with an interdisciplinary team of academics and consultants on creating a solar program proposal, in the TVA region, to the Department of Energy known as the “Aggregate Utility Solar Program Using Micro-Investments.” Currently the problem with investing into solar for the average Tennessean is that the high up-front costs associated with solar is too large and therefore hindered demand. Since the demand is stifled, the marginal cost of solar production equipment has remained high. We are looking to remedy this issue by creating a platform where micro-investments can be used to provide solar energy to a broad base of citizens who can otherwise not afford it. The model will aggregate the demand from hundreds-of-thousands of individuals who invest small sums of money on a monthly basis to install large solar farms. Each micro-investment will equate to one “share” in a solar farm and will provide an escalating return on investment as the monthly investments continue. The model will analyze the situational requirements to induce micro-investments, the relationships between key variables, the resulting economic impact to the community, and the future cost of electricity to the consumers. Once the analysis is complete, our social scientists can identify any policies needed for a new solar program, and the Tennessee Valley Authority can implement a pilot program based on the model.

The best part of this program is that it does not cost the state anything. The widespread growth would be due to a multitude of private investors rather than state dependency.

We believe the results of this program would be very important for the growth of solar in Tennessee. The wide implementation of solar would drastically reduce carbon emissions in Tennessee, because solar does not emit carbon pollutants. This would create a savings on the carbon emissions quota, which the state could redistribute in creating for carbon emission permits for new manufactures and producers. The biggest impact, however, would be that this program would create a new source for job creation in the energy sector. A study by the University of California-Berkeley found that for every megawatt of panels installed that 20 manufacturing and 13 installation job-years would be created. We believe solar energy is the future and we think a program like this can help get us there.

Below is a link to the concept paper for the utility solar program we are looking to create. It will give you background information and greater insight on the models that we are making use of and developing. Please send us any comments or questions you have about the program so we can use them to help make our full proposal the best it can be. Use the comment section below, or e-mail us at

Link to the Concept Paper

The TSEA Team

Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander on Clean Air Rule Vote

TSEA is grateful to our Senator Alexander for the keen and meaningful remarks of a fellow Tennessean about the well being of our valley. In the remarks he also mentions our other estimable Senator Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, actions to improve the air quality of his city. It would seem to me that both should be strong advocates of solar energy and its impact on our air and water quality.

Both are correct in saying that we got to get solar prices down before we can get wide acceptance. Both our senators know that the vast majority of our citizenry want solar. How to we make it all happen? We believe that the goal of improving our solar adoption is not price alone, but that public adoption of clean energy is paramount.

At the moment TVA customers are asked to donate money to purchase pure solar at $8 per unit. What if we use old fashioned American wisdom and modified the program from a donation to an investment? We do not expect a business to donate money so that some bank can reap the profit, so why should we expect the average citizen of the Tennessee valley under the current economic situation to give us its disposable income other than the belief that it is good for our nation? TSEA will be posting its submission to the Department of Energy for a Sunshot grant to show how we can create a program that will allow the average citizen to invest in solar and reap a return on that investment. More on this later.

Right now TSEA wants you to read the excellent comments of our senator regarding the clean air bill.

I would agree the EPA has become a happy hunting ground for goofy regulations. But as the late William F. Buckley once said, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And on this rule — this clean air rule and the earlier interstate rule — I believe EPA is right.
The effect of upholding this rule will be to finally require that most coal plants in America will have to install two kinds of pollution control equipment: scrubbers and SCRs. This will basically finish the job of capturing sulfur and nitrogen oxides, fine particles, and the 187 toxic pollutants that were specifically identified by Congress in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has already committed to install this equipment by 2018. But TVA alone can’t clean up Tennessee’s air, because dirty air blows in from other States. So let me say what upholding this rule will do for the people of Tennessee.
First, it will hasten the day when Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville are not three of the top five worst asthma cities — which they are today — and Nashville is not competing to be in the top 10.
Dr. William Lawson of Vanderbilt University, who treats patients with respiratory diseases in Nashville said in a recent article that: “Pollution from these power plants means my patients suffer more. Pollution increases their chances of being hospitalized. Some of these toxic emissions even cause cancer and can interfere with our children’s neurological development.”
Secondly, upholding this rule means that visitors will soon not even think of calling the Great Smoky Mountains the Great Smoggy Mountains because it is one of the most polluted national parks in America.
Third, this rule should mean fewer health advisory warnings for our streams that say “don’t eat the fish because of mercury contamination.” Half of the manmade mercury in the United States comes from coal plants, and as much as 70 percent of the mercury pollution in our local environment, such as streams and rivers, can come from nearby coal plants.
Fourth, we have seen that had Nissan been unable to get an air quality permit in Nashville in 1980, it would have gone to Georgia. And if Senator Corker had not, as mayor of Chattanooga, improved the air quality in that city in the mid 2000’s, the Volkswagen site there would be a vacant lot today.

From the heart, thank you Senator Alexander

UT unveils solar-powered, free-standing charging station

The Solar Tide is Coming In to U.S. Shores

King Canute testing his power of devine right

It seems that the opponents to widespread use of solar are fighting a battle of devine power versus the tide of solar growth and are losing. The banking industry hurt by scandal and bad judgement have turned to “go with the flow” and are backing solar energy as a good investment for their clients. With this model in mind, why can’t all of us who are not major investors reap from the same model? That is the premise that the Tennessee Solar Energy Association is using for a concept paper to be submitted today to the Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative. Our idea is to offer the same concept of a secure investment to the all the ratepayers of electricity in this country so that they can reap the same investment potential as the major financial investors. We will release excepts from the concept paper in a future blog.

From PVtech news release: The US Senate’s recent vote to not extend the Department of Treasury’s solar energy tax incentive has resulted in a creative alternative by underwriters from financial institutions like Bank of America to Credit Suisse and Citigroup. This option would convert “sunlight into cash to pay bond investors,” reports Bloomberg. The SEIA predicts solar installations could increase by 75%, exceeding the 3,200MW goal for 2012.
Credit Suisse is seeking to develop solar-backed securities, which will offer “a predictable source of liquidity as the industry continues to grow,” said Russell Burns, managing director of asset finance, at Credit Suisse Securities USA.

Tanguy Serra, president of Vivint’s solar unit, believes securitization, which Citigroup is in the process of developing, is less risky than other bonds. “Your home’s electricity is an absolute necessity that comes ahead of everything else. Even if you’re giving up your car, you’re still paying your power bill,” Serra said in an email to Bloomberg. “Investing in solar securities is one of the least risky investments you can make.”

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Changes Planned for TVA Generation Partners Program

Lighwave Solar 50 kW solar array at Rx Med in Lebanon TN
LightWave Solar is encouraging all potential solar system owners to move ahead with project development before the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) changes their popular Generation Partners solar program this year. Under the current program, solar system owners receive 12 cents plus the base rate (totaling about 22 cents) per kilowatt-hour of solar electricity. “Generation Partners has been a real driver for solar development in the Valley, creating jobs and diversifying TVA’s portfolio,” says Steve Johnson, President of LightWave Solar. “Unfortunately, it appears that TVA will be scaling back the program.”

According to the TVA website, the new program will be called Green Power Providers. Changes could include lower incentives, resulting in lower returns on solar investments. Premium amounts will be reviewed and evaluated annually with plans to phase them out over time. In addition, participation will be subject to annual limits. A 50 kilowatt system, the maximum system size allowed under Generation Partners, can generate over $14,000 annually. Combined with the 30 percent federal tax credit, accelerated depreciation benefits, and a $1,000 cash bonus from TVA upon installation, the payback period on a solar investment can be as short as six years. After that, the system generates income for decades.

Potential Residential Customers: The major cost reductions are based on the Federal Tax Code which gives businesses the economic advantage that the average family cannot apply to lowering your cost.

$1.5 Million in Solar Panels Free to Hawkins Co. Schools

by M. Woodward

What if you could find a deal in which your county schools could rent roof space and get l.5 to 2 million dollars worth of solar panels installed on top of 3 of your schools for free? And, the schools would get paid $14,000 per year for the roof rentals? Would you go for a deal like that?

According to William Shedden, Director of Maintenance for Hawkins County Schools, this is exactly the deal that came their way and you bet they went for it. It took long hours of work from the superintendent’s office, members of the school board, administrators, teachers, parents, and private investors for the project to succeed.

The project is complete. Bulls Gap School, Church Hill Intermediate School, and Clinch School are now topped with solar panels valued at approximately 1.5 to 2 million dollars at no cost to the school system thanks to a Morristown company’s financing scheme.

Hawkins County Schools was able to take advantage of the old Green Partner’s program sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority by renting their roof space for the installation of solar panels at the three schools.

Director of Maintenance Bill Shedden says, “The money came from a third party investor. Hannah Solar installed the equipment. So all of this that you see is no money out of the school system’s pocket, whatsoever.

The way the financing works, is a company arranges a deal with a bank, or it could be a for-profit company that needs tax credits to reduce their income tax. The for-profit company provides the up-front financing for the solar system and hires a firm to install the solar panels. The tax credits and depreciation reduce the business taxes and the company making the arrangements, called the third party, gets the income from the sale of the solar power to TVA. The school system does not get a lower energy bill, but does get the rental income. After a set period, the third-party owner will offer to sell the system to the school system at a significantly reduced price. This is a great deal all around.

Currently there are 833 solar panels on top of Church Hill Intermediate School and every day these panels produce enough energy to power 3 or 4 average size households. At that rate the TVA will pay Hawkins County Schools 14 thousand dollars a year and this is a ten year agreement that includes that Hawkins County Schools will pay nothing to install the current and future panels.

But Hawkins County doesn’t want to stop there. They have plans to add solar panels to the roofs of 10-13 other schools in the county.

They have plans to set up a website for the students and for members of the community to use that will show exactly how much energy is produced everyday by the solar panels. They are also asking for everyone to ‘think outside the box” and come forth with creative ideas to help with the continuation of this project.

Stephen Levy, technical director for the Tennessee Solar Energy Association, says that he and recent UT business graduate, Stefan Partin, and Solar Association founder, Jim Hackworth, visited Hawkins County to view the installation of the solar panels and were “blown away with the beauty and resourcefulness”.

“This is what we want to replicate in all school systems across America,” he said. “There is nothing to stop solar energy from becoming the source for energy in our future. We are pleased, very pleased,” he said.

PV Tech Newscast – July 6, 2012