Solar Energy Lunch & Learns for Kentucky Farmers In Feb. & March

LightWave Solar will explain how solar energy works in the TVA region and focus on the financial benefits of adding solar photovoltaics (PV) to a farm. The presentation will cover the basics of solar energy including system components, costs, and a breakdown of the available incentives, including TVA’s solar buyback program, the 30% federal tax credit and accelerated depreciation, and the KY Agricultural Development Fund (KADF) On-Farm Energy Grant which covers 50% of system cost up to $15,000. We will also cover the low interest (2.75%) energy loans that are available for farm projects through Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation (KAFC).


Wednesday, March 6 from noon to 2 p.m.
Hopkinsville Christian Co Public Library
1101 Bethel Street
Hopkinsville, KY 42240

Friday, March 15 from noon to 2 p.m.
Faculty House at the WKU Campus
1906 College Heights Boulevard
Bowling Green, KY 42101

The Faculty House is located on Faculty House Drive which you can find on the campus map:

Parking: The event will be held during Spring Break, so the campus will be quieter than usual.  You can find parking on the streets nearby, or to park in areas requiring a pass, please come inside the Faculty House to obtain a parking pass from us.


Events are free and open to the public. Lunch provided! Please RSVP to Grace Robertson at 615-641-4050 x104 or


Grid-Tied, Hybrid and Off-Grid

Which is for you?  On grid, battery backup, or off grid.
We are frequently asked what happens when the grid is down and about batteries, etc. So let’s review three types of solar systems; grid tied, battery backup and off grid.  Which is for you?

This is by far the most common, requires the least maintenance, and is the least expensive. It also receives the TVA Green Power Providers premium.  However grid tied systems are required to disconnect from the grid in the event of a power outage. This means you won’t have any power either. Whether this is an issue for you depends on the individual. If you only lose power 2 or 3 times a year for an hour or 2 this shouldn’t be a problem.  You can go out to dinner, see a movie, or just light a candle and have a glass of wine.  Or you may be asleep or out of the house during the outage and not even know it happened, except for resetting a clock or two.

On the other hand, if you require electricity for medical purposes or live in an area with more frequent and sustained power outages, or live at the end of the distribution line (these are the last places to be restored), you may want to consider the other options.

dentonThis type system is grid tied but has batteries which provide emergency power. This is more expensive than grid-tied obviously because of the need to have not only the batteries but equipment to charge the batteries, regulate them, provide over current protection and disconnecting means, an enclosure, more wiring, an emergency panel, transferring  emergency circuits from the existing panel to the emergency panel, and possibly an additional transfer switch. So if this significant expense is worth it to you, keeping in mind the batteries will have to be replaced in 5 to 10 years, then this may be a viable option for you. These systems will be a little less efficient than grid tied systems because the chemical reaction that charges the batteries takes energy. Additionally energy is lost in the chemical conversion from the battery to the inverter when the batteries are drawn upon to provide electricity.

Equip Wall 6-16-09 005 (2)These backup systems are of 2 basic types, AC Coupled and DC Coupled. This refers to the coupling between the PV and the batteries, whether they connect to the system on the AC side or the DC side.

In a DC coupled system the PV can charge the batteries directly with DC current via a charge controller. In this type system you may have one inverter with both grid tied and battery charging capabilities. The disadvantage to DC coupled is your strings (panel groupings) are usually limited to 150 volts, so you may only have 3 panels per string for example. This means more wiring and if there is too much distance between the panels and the batteries, as is frequently the case, you will need larger wire and conduit.  One advantage to this system is it can be done with one inverter.  However these type inverters are less efficient and you will probably need 2 of them if you want 240 volts to feed through a Green Power Providers meter.

AC coupled systems on the other hand go from the PV to a grid tied inverter. Here the electricity is inverted to AC which will run loads that are present and at the same time send AC to a battery inverter that has a battery charger built in. Besides providing charge control to the batteries this inverter inverts the batteries to AC which feeds an emergency panel in the event power goes out.  This type setup has the advantage of operating at a higher voltage on the DC side, in the range of 350 volts DC.   This translates to less material required to wire the panels together and get that power to where its going.  It also provides the added benefit of more efficient transmission of power over a distance.  For example if its 200′ or 300′ feet from the array to the batteries we can run a much smaller wire size than if we are going to a charge controller.

BatteryOff grid systems have no connection to the grid at all.  This requires a life style that most people in the US aren’t used to, living without unlimited power on tap 24/7.  Still thousands of people live this way because they make the right choices for it to be a viable life style.   If you aren’t willing to live without central heat and air, a dishwasher, and some other electrical energy appliances you may want to reconsider.  I’d say the biggest factor is do you understand electrical energy?  Because you will have a limited amount, understanding kwh and amp hours is vital to a successful system.

So the solar power is stored in batteries and inverted with a special inverter that can also charge the batteries.  Because more power is needed around the winter solstice, or December of each year, and this is also the period with the shortest days, most people use a generator during this period to assist the solar generation.  Specifically because the days are shorter – more light is needed.  Because of wet and cold weather people are inside more and using kitchen appliances, lighting, fans moving heat around, cooking, etc.

Myth: Off grid is cheaper than the electric company.

Sometimes people want to go off grid because its cheaper than the electric company.  Wrong!  If you want cheap stay with the electric company.  There are situations where the electric company wants say $50,000 to bring power lines to your remote location and this can be a factor.  If you have other reasons plow ahead.  Remember you will be the plant operator and have full responsibility for your system, how much power you use and how you maintain it (especially the batteries).

Off grid is easier with vacation homes, get away retreats, hunting cabins etc.  because they are not occupied 24/7 you can save up power during the week for use on the weekend.  The battery pack can be oversized relative to the PV to store electricity during the week for the weekends.

Most of our installations are grid tied.  Next is battery backup and last is the occasional off grid system.  Having trouble deciding?  We can install a grid tied system and come back in the future to convert it to an AC coupled battery backup system.  To do this you keep all your existing equipment and we add a battery inverter, appropriate transfer switches, batteries, battery enclosure, battery monitoring, emergency panel, transfer circuits to the emergency panel and all the required electrical gear for a safe battery based backup system.  By AC coupling the system the solar panels don’t have to be rewired to a different voltage and you still get the benefit of the production incentive in the TVA Green Power Provider program.

So what is it you are looking for?  What is your situation and what do you want to accomplish?  Our job is to help you pick the right type system for you.  Let us know how we can help you get a system up and generating and join the rapidly growing group of fuel free solar power generators.

Where We’ll Be in January 2013

Eco Expo Environmental Fair in Memphis Jan 27
LightWave Solar will have a booth among dozens of exhibitors at the Eco Expo in Memphis on Sunday, January 27 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Temple Israel. Explore a wide range of green products and services and see the latest models of electric and hybrid cars and even watch a car parade! If you bring your own re-useable cup, enjoy free lemonade and coffee. Admission is also free.

Sun Jan 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Temple Israel
1376 East Massey Road
Memphis, TN 38120

Where We’ll Be in February 2013

Johnson City Area HBA Home & Garden Show Feb. 16-17
LightWave Solar will be among the 137 booths at the 43rd annual Johnson City Area Home Builders Association Home and Garden Show at Freedom Hall Civic Center. The showrooms will be open Saturday, Feb. 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tickets are $3 per person per day and a weekend pass is available for $5. Children 12 and under will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. For more information, call the JCAHBA at (423) 282-2561.

104.5 The Zone SportsFest Feb 23
Join LightWave Solar for 104.5 The Zone’s SportsFest on Saturday, February 23 at the Nashville Convention Center. Stop by and visit the LightWave booth while celebrating all things sports!

Bring the family for a day of sports fun and a great speaker series. 104.5 The Zone will be broadcasting live from all day long and WKU Head Coach Bobby Petrino and UT Coach Butch Jones will be at SportsFest.

Advance tickets are $5 for adults and $5 for children (ages 3-12). Children under 3 are free. Purchase tickets online here. There are no online processing charges. Day of Event tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for children (ages 3-12).

Open House Lunch & Learn on Feb 27: “How Solar Can Work for Your Business”

LightWave Solar is hosting a free open house lunch & learn to explain the benefits of adding solar photovoltaics (PV) to a business. We will cover TVA’s new solar incentive program and provide an overview of the available tax incentives. Homeowners and others are welcome to attend, too.

Wednesday, Feb. 27 from 12-1pm.  Lunch provided!
LightWave Solar’s Office & Warehouse
3026 Owen Drive, Suite 104
Antioch, TN 37013

The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Grace Robertson at or call 615-641-4050 x104.

Solar Power in East TN – A Gift for the Kids

Story published: 12-26-2012 By Frances Lamberts
Original Link:

For clean, alternative energy, our town and the metro area don’t look like some European counterparts yet, but we are heading there.As visiting journalist Christian Roselund reports from Freiburg, Germany, when its children go to school in the morning and its residents to work, they pass dozens of solar installations.

They see solar panels on homes, churches, the soccer stadium, the roofs of schools and the façade of the main train station.

There are “solar housing” developments and a “solar business park.”

All told, the city’s photo-voltaic installations “produce enough electricity to meet the needs of tens of thousands of homes.”

Wind turbines on hilltops within city boundaries contribute more natural, pollution-free electric energy.

Grover Hickman’s solar PV installation in Gray, preceded and aided by a small roof-mounted wind turbine, in 2007 became the Johnson City Power Board’s first “Generation Partners” clean-energy supplier.

Alternative energy installations such as his, sponsored under Green Power Switch, unfortunately were halted early in 2010 by a TVA imposed moratorium.

As the Tennesseean then reported, “costly mega-projects by opportunistic investors” were depleting the allocated funds whose principal, intended target had been “smaller solar installations [that] homeowners and businesses want.”

Paul Sutton, manager of a local installation company (Lightwave Solar), states that TVA supported systems now are designed to “zero out an owner’s electric bill.”

TVA purchases all the electricity the system produces, at a favorable 19-cents per kilowatt hour reimbursement, while the residential electricity rate is currently less than 10 cents.

To assure adherence to all grid-connection, safety and other relevant guidelines, applications must be approved by the Power Board and the TVA.

For small systems, from first site visit, consultation and design by a certified installer, to “commissioning” when the sun begins powering the home, the process typically takes less than three months.

Under the TVA contract, the owner locks in the favorable power-purchase reimbursement for 20 years.

For very large systems (above 50 kilowatt generation capacity), Sutton indicates that large down payments and high financial assurance requirements must now be met, TVA pays a less favorable premium price for the power produced, and the certification process takes longer.

A new residential solar installation on Cherokee Street in Jonesborough is about to join some 30 others that VA now helps fund under the “Green Power Provider Program,” in the JCPB service area alone.

As home owner Ignacy Fonberg sees it, with the JCPB “essentially paying for our monthly use, under this program,” the previous electric-bill payments can go toward payment for installing the system.

With federal funding support of 30 percent of installed cost now available, and an added TVA sum for the installation, it will be paid off in a decade or less.

But power production is guaranteed for at least 15 years longer, making the investment payback for a solar-supplied home, Fonberg adds, “better by far than any interest you can earn at the bank.”

Solar power for our buildings makes a lasting gift, as well, to the planet’s children.