What is solar energy?
Solar energy comes from the millions of photons emitted from the sun every day. That is why solar panels are sometimes called “photovoltaics.” In fact, enough photons hit the Earth in an hour to power the whole planet for a full year!
Solar is more than photons! Cats lie in the sun for a reason… daylight gets pretty hot! We can use this energy in solar thermal systems to heat water for your house.
One common question we get is.. Does the U.S. really get enough sun to make solar work? Will it only work in the deserts out west?
Germany leads the world in solar installations and recently installed its 1,000,000th solar system. Germany gets as much sun as Alaska. So, yes, we get plenty of sun to make solar work here in Tennessee!
The first step to take before installing a solar system is to have you house checked for energy efficiency. The cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one you don’t use!
There are many resources on how to get a professional energy audit, or do a simple one yourself:
Different Types of Solar Panels:
Not all solar panels are the same. There are 3 main types of solar panels that each have their advantages and disadvantages.
Mono-crystalline: The most efficient, but also the most expensive. They are good for residential houses because you can fit more watts into less space. They are available in silver or a less noticeable all black.
Poly-crystalline: Less expensive and less efficient than mono, more expensive and more efficient than thin films.
Thin film: light, flexible and easy to install, but are much less efficient. They are good for metal roofs, or large areas.
Although each type of panels are different, they all require a non-shaded area that faces South or West. South facing areas will produce the maximum amount of electricity, since we are in the northern hemisphere.
How much do solar panels cost?
Although prices have been dropping rapidly, the cost of solar energy for the average person is still out of reach without incentives.
Current Incentives for a TN Resident:
- 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit – 30% of the final system price can be applied as a tax credit.
- TVA’s Generation Partners Program – $1,000 incentive + $0.12 over the retail electricity rate per kWh of electricity your system produces. (ex. – if the retail rate is $0.09 per kWh, you would receive $0.21 per kWh your system produces)
- TN Sales Tax Credit – Rebate for 100% of any sales tax paid
TN State Legislation:
Tennessee lacks legislation in support of solar energy.
Most States have a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires a certain amount of electricity generated in the State to come from renewable sources. An RPS also creates a Renewable Energy Credit, which is a certificate equal to 1 megawatt-hour of electricity from renewables. These certificates can be sold and traded on a market to organizations that are required by the RPS to buy them. This can be a lucrative market, creating another income stream for solar system owners.
Is the U.S. ready for solar energy?
As prices decline, solar is expected to have explosive growth since it will be cheaper than buying from the utility.