Archive for July 13, 2012

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