Changes Coming to TVA Generation Partners Program

TVALightWave 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. Under the current program, solar system owners receive 12 cents plus the base rate (totaling about 22 cents) per kilowatt-hour of solar electricity.

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 that reflect budgets, the value of renewable technologies to TVA and renewable market conditions.

Because of the uncertainty, we are encouraging Tennessee businesses and homeowners to become TVA Generation Partner participants and lock in the 12 cents above base rate for 10 years. That way businesses and residents receive the best possible returns.

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.

Currently, there are over 900 Generation Partners participants. To begin the interconnection and Generation Partners application process, contact us. We have designed and installed over 200 solar projects across the state since the inception of the TVA Generation Partners program.


Report: US Solar Installations Continue to Surge in Q1 2012, but Domestic Manufacturing Woes Continue

Solar PV installations increase 85% in Q1 2012 over Q1 2011 according to US Solar Market Insight Report.

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q1 2012 (SEIA and GTM Research)

WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q1 2012, a report released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®), finds that growth in solar photovoltaics (PV) markets in the U.S. is maintaining its breakneck pace from 2011.

Led by strong growth in the commercial market segment, the U.S. installed a record of 506 megawatts (MW) over the first three months of this year, more than any other first quarter on record.

This quarter’s activity brings the total amount of solar PV across America to 4,427 MW. In addition, concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities are providing 516 MW of electric power to the U.S. Together, solar electric capacity reached 4,943 MW in the U.S., enough to power 775,000 households.

“The U.S. solar industry continues to lead the U.S. out of difficult economic times,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Installations have grown by 85 percent in the last year.  This growth is coming from consumers who are turning to solar to reduce their energy costs.  In states across the country, Americans are waking up to the realization that putting solar on your home or business is a better investment than the stock market.”

Overall, 2012 is shaping up to be another banner year for the U.S. solar market. Tomorrow’s U.S. Solar Market Insight report forecasts total 2012 annual solar PV installations to exceed 3,200 megawatts, 75 percent greater than last year’s total and 15 percent higher than previous annual forecasts for 2012.

The increase in forecasted installations for 2012 is due to accelerated timelines for large-scale utility projects, greater-than-expected first quarter growth in the New Jersey commercial market, the number of safe-harbored projects that will still qualify for the U.S. government’s expired 1603 Treasury Program, and overall positive outlooks for the California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii markets.

“We remain bullish in 2012 on all market segments in the U.S. and most of the 23 states we cover in this report,” said Shayle Kann, Vice President at GTM Research. “However, 2013 is an open question. The impacts of an import tariff on solar cells imported from China, as well as the expiration of the 1603 Treasury Program, will be felt most next year. This could coincide with a trough of demand in New Jersey and California’s adjustment period into a post-California Solar Initiative (CSI) world to create a temporary slowing of growth. However, we expect the U.S. market to regain momentum thereafter and continue along its path to become a global PV market leader by 2015.”

While the demand for solar energy in the U.S. grows, and the cost of solar falls, U.S. solar panel manufacturers continue to face increased global competition and uncertainty surrounding global trade disputes. In Q1 2012, U.S. solar panel production amounted to just 160 MW compared to 335 megawatts in Q1 2011.

Key Findings for PV:

  • PV installations in Q1 2012 reached 506 MW, up 85 percent over Q1 2011.
  • New Jersey was the largest state market, with 174 megawatts of installations in Q1 2012.
  • Pricing for polysilicon and PV components continued to exhibit softness in Q1 2012 due to the persistence of the global oversupply environment that the industry has faced since early 2011.
  • Blended module prices for Q1 2012 were down to $0.94 per watt, a staggering 47 percent lower than Q1 2011 levels of $1.78 per watt.
  • Installed prices fell in every market segment year-over-year compared to Q1 2011.
    • Residential installed prices fell 7.3 percent, commercial installed prices fell 11.5 percent, and utility prices fell 24.7 percent over Q1 2011.
    • The overall blended average installed price fell 17.2 percent year-over-year.
  • Cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. now totals 4,427 megawatts (direct current).

Key Findings for CSP:

  • Abengoa’s Solana Generating Station received a $125 million investment from Capital Riesgo Global, a subsidiary of Banco Santander, for an equity stake in the project.
  • Construction of the power tower at the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project was completed in February 2012.
  • A total of 1.1 gigawatts (alternating current) of CSP are now under construction.

Some states saw their rankings improve significantly this quarter compared to where they stood in 2011: Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Florida, and Tennessee all moved up in the rankings. Others states that lost ground in comparison were California, Colorado, New York, and Pennsylvania.


Green Power Switch Pure Solar

Green Power SwitchIf you haven’t yet added solar panels to your home or business, consider buying blocks of renewable energy through TVA’s Green Power Switch (GPS).   Each block purchased helps support the regional production of renewable energy, including the funding for the Generation Partners program.

The Generation Partners program currently credits solar system owners for their clean electricity at a premium rate.

A new pilot program called Green Power Switch Pure Solar is sourced entirely from Generation Partners (which will soon transition to Green Power Providers). GPS Pure Solar is offered in only a few areas, so ask if your area is eligible.

Please click the links below to learn more and sign up!

GPS Pure Solar:

Back to the Basics: AC Modules and DC Modules

AC Modules

One of the newest technologies on the solar market are AC modules (or AC panels).  These are solar modules with microinverters already mounted on the back. Although they cost more, AC modules can be a great solar option for sites with shading and/or irregularly shaped roofs.

Here’s how it works: Standard DC modules are connected in series to make one or more strings that feed into one or more inverters.  Shading on one panel can affect the production of other unshaded panels in the same string.  With AC modules, however, an inverter is mounted on each module, so shading on one module will not affect the output of other unshaded modules.  For example, a tree might create shade on a single panel, and typically that obstruction would affect the output of the entire series-string of panels. With AC modules, the shade would reduce solar output for only the shaded panel(s).

Since AC modules are not constrained to stringing requirements, they can be added in any number to improve aesthetics and fully utilize roof space.

AC panels use what is called Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) on a panel level, whereas string inverters use MPPT at the string level. Panel level MPPT extracts the maximum power from each module in the array and provides energy production insight that was once previously unavailable. Online monitoring with AC modules allows us to monitor the output production of each panel.

Sharp and SunPower AC modules come with 25 year warranties, versus the typical 10 year warranty for string inverters.  Other advantages include a reduction of hardware and installation time. One drawback is that there are more units to fail.  The part is warrantied, but the service would be an additional cost to the system owner.

“AC modules make a lot of sense in some situations,” says solar sales consultant JP Plumlee.  “It’s an advanced technology that is made for roofs with less than ideal solar conditions.”

LightWave Solar currently has three customers who have chosen to use AC panels, and their installations are underway.