Archive for Grants and Incentives

Strata Solar will build and maintain two 20-megawatt solar farms interconnected to the TVA power system

Strata Solar is working with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Pickwick Electric Cooperative to develop the two largest solar energy installations in the Tennessee Valley near Selmer in McNairy County, TN. TVA will buy the electricity at market rates under TVA’s Renewable Standard Offer program.

“This project will add a tremendous amount of solar power to our already strong renewable lineup,” said Patty West, TVA director of Renewable Energy Programs. “Because TVA is purchasing the output at market rates, the electricity will also be among our cheapest solar power, moving us toward our vision of being a national leader in providing low-cost and cleaner energy.”
Current plans call for the solar farms to have more than 160,000 solar panels installed on over 300 acres. Each farm will be four times bigger than the largest current solar installation on the TVA system, the University of Tennessee’s five-megawatt West Tennessee Solar Farm that opened in 2012 in Haywood County, TN.

The Strata Solar projects have been accepted into TVA’s Renewable Standard Offer program, pending an environmental review and interconnection studies that must be completed before construction begins. TVA is accepting public comments on the environmental review online at http://www.tva.com/environment/reports/strata/index.htm through Aug. 13.

Referenced article

TSEA August Newsletter Editorial

TSEA Editorial

Disputes over the use of small-scale solar power are flaring across the nation. At issue in an Iowa lawsuit is whether solar-system marketers can sell electricity in territories where local utilities have exclusive rights to customers.

In TVA territory distributors are forbidden from generating electricity and that extends down to small installations on residential homes. The overall concept of an individual providing some of its own power and selling the rest to the utility company is called net metering.

Net metering or net energy metering (NEM) allows electricity customers who wish to supply their own electricity from on-site generation to pay only for the net energy they obtain from the utility. NEM is primarily used for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at homes and businesses (other distributed generation (DG) customers may have access as well). Since the output of a PV system may not perfectly match the on-site demand for electricity, a home or business with a PV system will export excess power to the electric grid at some times and import power from the grid at other times. The utilities bill customers only for the net electricity used during each billing period. Alternately, if a customer has produced more electricity than they have consumed, the credit for that net excess generation will be treated according to the NEM policy of the state or utility.

Benefits of distributed solar include:

• PV systems generate the most electricity during the middle of the day when demand is the highest.
• Net metered PV systems reduce the need to expand transmission grid capacity
• Net metering allows for the development of a solar energy market and the jobs that come with it

Currently 44 states plus D.C. have implemented net metering policies. The following map shows the six states that forbid net metering.


Utilities “are proponents of renewable energy,” said Barry Shear, president of Iowa’s Eagle Point Solar LLC, but only “if they own the energy assets and the electrons flow through their grid and they can bill you.”
“The electric utility industry’s preservation of revenues and investor capital will be determined by its success in aligning with the following five consumer mega-trends reshaping the U.S. economy” says Bill Roth President of NCCT, a nationally recognized business coach, economist, ranked as a top-five writer on sustainability and business best practices. To paraphrase his proposed trends as:
1. Consumers are in active pursuit of lower bills,
2. The electric utility industry’s revenues are at risk with a generation that views the industry as missing in action,
3. Today moms manage the household budget. They expect the companies they do business with, including their utility, to provide products and services that align with their values,
4. Electric utilities need to mimic CEOs of major corporations who are adopting sustainability to reduce their operating costs, increase customer alignment and mitigate risks, and
5. Consumer acceptance of cost reducing disruptive technologies that challenge existing utility economic models.

The issue being brought up in this Iowa dispute is the question as to who supplies electric power to residential customers. The dispute can be resolved with changing the economic model of how solar can be integrated into the existing business models of TVA and independently owned utilities. Nobody has to lose. The existing model in our state can be preserved allowing TVA to generate all the electricity selling the power through their distributors who connect the electricity to the residential commercial customers.
The issue now is not who owns the power sources, but how we raise the funds for solar farms and distributed solar needs. The answer maybe to apply the economic model of micro-investments.
The model published in the July/August issue of Solar Today, addresses the existing barriers through the following channels.
• The income will be generated by residential customers who are interested in improving their environment as well as income generation.
• TVA will manage all future solar installations in cooperation with their distributors.
• Income from the sale of solar power will be channeled from TVA and it’s distributors to the residential investor.
• TVA and its distributors will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of all solar generation where the cost for the O&M will come from the profits of solar sales.
• Home owners and businesses that sign up for the program will agree to compensate the distributors for the cost of maintaining and upgrading the distribution system.
• For distributed generation TVA will compensate the owner of the property for renting their roof.

The essence of the model is discussed in the Solar Today article which can be retrieved at the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) website

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities


For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread. And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid. The battle is playing out among energy executives, lawmakers and regulators across the country. At the heart of the fight is a credit system called net metering, which pays residential and commercial customers for excess renewable energy they sell back to utilities. Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia and 4 territories offer a form of the incentive, according to the Energy Department.

Many utilities cling to their established business, and its centralized distribution of energy, until they can figure out a new way to make money. It is a question the Obama administration is grappling with as well as it promotes the integration of more renewable energy into the grid. “I see an opportunity for us to recreate ourselves, just like the telecommunications industry did,” Michael W. Yackira, chief executive of NV Energy, a Nevada utility, and chairman of the industry group the Edison Electric Institute, said at the group’s convention. But utility executives say that when solar customers no longer pay for electricity, they also stop paying for the grid, shifting those costs to other customers.

Utilities generally make their profits by making investments in infrastructure and designing customer rates to earn that money back with a guaranteed return, set on average at about 10 percent. A handful of utilities have taken a different approach and are instead getting into the business of developing rooftop systems themselves. Dominion, for example, is running a pilot program in Virginia in which it leases roof space from commercial customers and installs its own panels to study the benefits of a decentralized generation.

Featured in the July/August issue of Solar Today Magazine is our remedy for this issue. Solar energy through micro-investing could be a solution for both the utility company and the customer. The individual or business would invest in solar energy with a small monthly purchase, perhaps $5 per month, using the micro-investment plan. This would provide opportunities to for all rate payers to invest in solar projects that would directly benefit them through lower electricity rates and return on investment. It overcomes the financing and siting obstacles that can keep would-be investors on the sidelines. As an example, if all TVA ratepayers became micro-investors at a rate of $5 per month, each year TVA would generate $135 million for constructing solar farms. This model protects everyone’s interest.

TVA Board Meeting August 22 in Knoxville

I have called TVA board information and requested when public comment will be accepted for this meeting. TVA will open the online speaking registry on the TVA board webpage one week before the board is scheduled to meet, which is tentatively set for Thursday, Aug. 22.

The agenda will also be posted at that time.
Please send board correspondence to:

TVA Board of Directors
Board Services
400 West Summit Hill Drive WT 6
Knoxville, TN 37914
You may also email board services at board@tva.gov.

public listening session which begins at 8:30 a.m. EDT

TVA’s Solar Balance Limits Have Riled Some Providers

Some solar providers are chafing at limits TVA has set as it attempts to balance large solar farm installations with more smaller home rooftop solar installations. (Lance Murphey)

Solar providers in Tennessee are chafing at the limits TVA has set as it attempts to balance large solar farm installations with more smaller home rooftop solar installations. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is the authority’s largest customer and solar installations in the Memphis area are dominated by the large solar installation at Agricenter International and the solar farm in rural West Tennessee along Interstate 40. “We’ve actually got a balance that we are looking for,” said Chris Stanley, spokesman for TVA. “TVA overall is looking to balance our portfolio and move into cleaner energy sources. We are looking at natural gas. We’ve had a lot of hydro this year thanks to some rains earlier in the year. … We’re looking to just change the balance so we are running cleaner by 2020.”

That solar power is also more expensive for TVA, which buys it at market rate plus a premium rate of 8 cents. The premium above market rate goes directly from TVA to the providers that sell it to a local utility.
For the 2013 slate of projects, TVA has decided to reopen applications for 2.5 megawatts in the Green Power program.
The Tennessee chapter of the Solar Energy Industry Association is urging TVA directors to drop the system of caps based on the calendar year in both programs.

Steve Johnson, the president of LightWave Solar, the provider that has an office in Memphis, estimated the 2.5 megawatts is enough capacity to last about a day. The association had been hoping for 5 megawatts to be back on the market as what it termed “a stopgap measure to prevent workforce erosion and business impacts in the short term.”
“Consumer demand for solar energy has grown faster than TVA’s ability to adjust, therefore leaving the market underserved, restricting the investment of private capital and creating unnecessary uncertainty for businesses,” said Gil Hough, president of the Tennessee chapter in calling for a “fair and market driven” approach to solar energy development.

But there are market pressures TVA is taking into account that are also factors for those in the solar energy industry. TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said that, just because TVA has filled its capacity in Green Power Providers does not mean TVA is turning down any further solar generation.

“It just means we don’t have any more money for incentives this year. We still have plenty of capacity to buy solar power at market rates,” he said.

Mansfield noted that TVA recently signed agreements with Pickwick Electric Cooperative to develop the two largest solar energy installations in the state in Selmer. The two 20-megawatt solar farm projects will sell electricity to TVA at a market rate of 8 to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour instead of the 19 cents per kilowatt-hour that TVA pays through Green Power Providers.

US Utility Business Model Woes

Jennifer Runyon is managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Jennifer Runyon, managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com, had a three minute conversation with Dr. Stephen Chu, former Energy Secretary that emphasized the need for electric generators and distributors to change their business model to reflect the addition of renewables, particularly solar PV, as a significant addition to the energy mix. Chu feels that utilities ought to own solar panels and energy storage systems that they put on their customers’ roofs and in their garages. He said if utilities could outfit homeowners with solar panels and a 5-kW battery system, they could continue selling that customer power just as they do now. The utility would own the system, maintain the system and the customer would have no out-of-pocket expenses for it other than continuing to buy power at the same rate or at perhaps an even lower rate. This would nicely fit into the TVA distributors future business model for distributed solar installations while preserving the distributor’s mission of providing their customer base with high quality, reliable electric power.

When it’s just a quarter or a half of one percent of a utility’s customers that have their own PV and are selling their solar power to the grid at the retail rate, the utility doesn’t care. But energy storage and PV panel costs are dropping, and once that percentage of utility customers’ that are zeroing out their bill goes to 5, 10 or 15 percent then “it’s a big deal” said Chu.

Chu said he told utilities that PV and energy storage is going to come and they should “form a new business model” NOW so that what today is a potential revenue loss, could become an area of growth for them in the future. Plus, he said this model would eventually lead to a more stable grid for us all.

TSEA’s suggested micro-investment model suggested for TVA would complement the distributor’s suggested model, supplying solar energy at the most affordable prices with ownership of large solar farms in the hands of the ratepayer investors. The TSEA model avoids having to loan money from banks; instead, it will earn interest on the monies deposited in investments increasing the income the ratepayer investors make. The question is whether TVA and its distributors will accept these business model changes.

Runyon’s article

Energy Department Announces Over $16 Million for Innovative Small Businesses Focused on Energy Technologies

To highlight President Obama’s focus on small businesses as leaders in an economy built to last, Acting Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman today announced that the Energy Department will award 88 grants to small businesses in 28 states to develop clean energy technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation.
original article

Campbell County, TN, Public Schools to Generate nearly $1M With Solar

The majority of public schools in Campbell County, Tenn., are going solar in a bid to make $960,000 over 20 years, without raising any additional taxes. That’s under a new partnership with residential and commercial solar installer Efficient Energy of Tennessee (EETN), which is installing solar at 12 of the county’s 21 schools.

The 12 schools in the program are installing 50-kilowatt solar systems, which will sell the power generated to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) through its local power distributor. Already, nine of the installations are complete and the remaining three are currently under construction, according to EETN. Under TVA’s Green Power Providers program, the TVA purchases all the output of the arrays at a premium of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour on top of the retail electricity rate. For years 11 through 20, participants are paid at the applicable retail rate.

“Not only are the solar installations at Campbell County’s elementary, middle and high schools a great STEM teaching tool but, they are generating funds for education without raising taxes,” said EETN President Robbie Thomas. “This financial model, of raising funds for education with solar energy, can be duplicated at school systems across the state of Tennessee.”
The school district, EETN and the Campbell County Finance Department were able to make the installations possible by issuing 15-year bonds. The bonds were used to finance the arrays and their installation. For the first 15 years, the installations are anticipated to produce between $12,000 and $14,400 in annual earnings, after paying all bond interest and principals. After the bonds are repaid, “Each installation will generate approximately $13,000 to $15,000 per year for Campbell County for years 16 through 20 of the power purchase agreement,” EETN said.

In all, the arrays can generate more than $960,000 over the 20 year contracts. The systems are expected to last between 30 and 35 years and could provide additional revenue or cost savings for the schools.

original article

Barack Obama puts solar at forefront of ‘assault’ on climate change

President Barack Obama today put solar at the forefront of a national strategy to cut carbon emissions in the United States as part of a “coordinated assault on a changing climate”.

The US president’s two-step climate action plan, launched at Georgetown University in Washington DC, includes regulatory efforts to curb emissions from fossil fuel power stations and to increase the use of clean energy.
“This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy, using less dirty energy, using more clean energy wasting less energy throughout our economy,” said Obama.
“Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution those plants can pump into our air… for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe and it needs to stop.”

original article

Attendees Fund 50 kW of Solar PV for Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music Festival

A 50-kilowatt array has been installed at Bonnaroo paid for by donations from attendees. Voluntary contributions from Bonnaroo’s roughly 80,000 annual attendees, collected through ticket sales since 2012, footed the bill for the system. Bonnaroo reserves opt-in donations exclusively for onsite sustainability improvements. In addition, festival organizers added a $1 fee to every ticket sold in 2012 to generate additional money for green initiatives. The solar installation directly resulted from both types of fan support.This is the first permanent solar system installed at a major American music festival. The clean energy produced by the system is equivalent to 20 percent of the power consumed at Bonnaroo during the annual four-day music and art extravaganza. David Bolt’s company, Sustainable Future, installed 196 SolarWorld panels. David Bolt stated that his company will supply an additional, temporary solar array at this year’s festival, which will provide shade as well as electricity for fans. “An important aspect of sustainability is to use land efficiently. Employing panels to create shade for fans next to the solar stage at Bonnaroo is a great way to accomplish this.” The system, mounted on the roof of a metal structure in the backstage area, will generate more than 61,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each year – equal to about 20 percent of Bonnaroo’s total annual power needs. While the system will not be visible to patrons, fans will peruse a solar display in “Planet Roo,” an area devoted to sustainability.