TVA Threatens Solar Industry in the Valley

The graph below shows the amount of solar installed in TVA’s residential and small commercial solar program, Green Power Providers, since 2009. You can see that solar installs have been falling since 2012 and only 1.5 MW of solar was installed in the first half of this year!

TVA and Solar

Solar installations sky rocketed in 2011, and TVA began cutting back the program. The market withstood the drops in the incentive payments since solar costs were falling significantly as well. However, system size limits and program caps have resulted in a program that undercuts the solar market.

Long story short: The demand for solar is higher than TVA’s 10 MW cap, and the extremely low cap has nearly killed the region’s solar industry. Though capacity is set at 10 MW, it is highly unlikely that 10 MW will actually be built in 2014 due to TVA’s approval process. We estimate 5-6 MW of solar will be installed in 2014.

As solar continues to grow nationally, as peer utilities set much bigger solar goals, and with solar prices at their lowest, TVA should double or triple solar program capacity, or get rid of the stifling cap altogether. If you would like to help, you can email the TVA board members at board@tva.gov. Feel free to include the graph above and let them know you would like to see more solar installed in the Valley.

TVA Opening Solar Programs in January

TVATVA’s solar programs are now open for a limited time. Under Solar Solutions Initiative for projects 50kW-1MW, TVA will begin accepting applications on Jan 1st on a first-come, first-served basis. TVA has allocated 16MW for 2014.

Under Green Power Providers for projects 50kW or less, TVA is accepting reservation forms for a limited time from Jan 15-Feb 17. TVA has allocated 4MW for residential projects and 6MW for commercial projects.

Contact us today if you are interested in building a solar project in 2014!  Time and program capacity is limited!

Industry Update: TVA Solar Initiatives Fall Short

Capacity has been reached in TVA’s two solar programs, Green Power Providers (GPP) and Solar Solutions Initiative (SSI). TVA is not approving new applications at this time. However, LightWave Solar will sign contingent contracts and complete utility paperwork to be ready to submit project applications as soon as TVA releases capacity.

TVA

We are requesting that TVA make the following actions to smooth out the program:

1. On June 1, 2013, reinstate unused/expired capacity in GPP from the fourth quarter 2012. It is our understanding that approximately 20 percent of the approved capacity from that period was actually built within the 180-day time limit.

2. Going forward, release capacity back into the GPP program on a monthly basis following the six month expiration of agreements (i.e., unused capacity from applications approved during January 2013 is released back into the program on August 1, and so forth).

3.Take steps to prevent speculative applications from taking up capacity, including a Valley-wide applicationfee and requiring a copy of the check between the owner or third party and their selected solar contractor. The purpose of this check is to prevent wild swings in the program, burdening local distributors, solar contractors and TVA with applications that do not have contracts.

4. Beginning June 1, roll unused capacity forward from the 2012 SSI program into 2013. Since the pilot program was a 2-year 20 MW program, and TVA had less than 2 MW built in the first year, 18 MW should be available in 2013. In addition, only signed contracts should count toward the cap, not simply applications received.

We are not asking TVA to increase their spending on solar electricity; we simply want to see that 100% of allotted capacity is built. On the other hand, TVA’s spending on solar electricity is minimal, and we refute TVA’s claim that they need to cap solar incentives to protect ratepayers. Private individuals and businesses make the capital investments in solar projects, and TVA should be expected to buy the electricity at a rate that reflects the value of the power that does not pollute, does not create costly disasters and does not require TVA (ratepayers) to pay for new power plants, maintenance, compliance, insurance, etc.  In addition, when TVA buys solar electricity, they own all of the environmental attributes, the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), that can be sold on the SREC market.  Solar is a win for everyone – TVA, ratepayers, clean air and water and the economy.

We encourage you to contact TVA to voice your opinions. Click here to visit the TVA Board of Directors webpage.

TVA’s Green Power Providers Program Near Full Capacity

TVA Green Power Providers

On January 1, TVA opened the Green Power Providers (GPP) program for 2013, and they are currently approving applications. Under GPP, TVA will buy solar PV generation at 9 cents/kilowatt-hour above the current rate (about 10 cents/kWh). This totals about 19 cents per kWh – nearly double the retail rate!

TVA has implemented a program capacity limit of 7.5 megawatts (MW) for 2013. Currently, TVA has approved applications for over 4.5 MW, over 60% of total capacity.  Because 1.5 MW is reserved for systems under 10 kW, the program is 75% full for systems over 10 kW.

If you or anyone you know is interested in installing solar, now is the time to get your TVA application submitted. To get started, contact LightWave Solar. We will provide a free solar consultation to help you decide if solar is right for you. Then, we help coordinate the GPP application, and help secure your approval. TVA program dashboard is updated every Friday and can be viewed here: http://www.tva.com/greenpowerswitch/providers/dashboard.htm.

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?

GRID TIED:
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.

BATTERY BACKUP (HYBRID)
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.

OFF GRID
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 December 2012

Open House Lunch & Learn on Dec 14: “How Solar Can Work for Your Business”

LightWave Solar is hosting a free 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.

Friday, December 14 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 grobertson@lightwavesolar.com or call 615-641-4050 x104.

Lunch & Learn in Sevierville on Dec 14: “How Solar Can Work for Your Home or Business”

LightWave Solar is hosting a free lunch & learn to explain the benefits of adding solar photovoltaics (PV) to your home or business. We will cover TVA’s new solar incentive program and the other financial benefits of adding solar to a home or business, including an overview of the available tax incentives.

Friday, December 14 from 12-1pm. Lunch provided!
Sevierville Civic Center in the Council Hall Room
200 Gary Wade Blvd
Sevierville, TN 37862

The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Alexis Close at aclose@lightwavesolar.com or call 423-737-0151.

Lunch & Learn in Memphis on Dec 14: “How Solar Can Work for Your Home or Business”

LightWave Solar is hosting a free lunch & learn to explain the benefits of adding solar photovoltaics (PV) to your home or business. We will cover TVA’s new solar incentive program and the other financial benefits of adding solar to a home or business, including an overview of the available tax incentives.

Friday, December 14 from 12-1pm. Lunch provided!
River Tower at South Bluffs Clubhouse
655 Riverside Drive
Memphis, TN 38103

The event is free and open to the public.

Please RSVP to Grace Robertson at grobertson@lightwavesolar.com or call 615-641-4050 x104.

Stake Claim to TVA’s Solar Incentive Before End of the Year

TVA’s Green Power Providers is now available! However, there is a 2.5 megawatt cap for the rest of 2012.  Plus, TVA expects their solar premium to drop from 12 cents to 9 cents on January 1st, 2013. We’re encouraging anyone interested in installing solar within the next 6 months to contact us now in order to lock-in the 12 cent premium while it is still available.

What difference does 3 cents make?  The bigger the system, the bigger the impact.  Here are two examples:

1. An average sized residential system is 5 kilowatts and generates about 6,570 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year: 6,570 kWh x $.03 = $200/year. Over 10 years, that’s $2,000.
2. For businesses installing 50 kilowatts, that’s $2,000 per year or $20,000 over 10 years!

Here are program details to consider:

  • Green Power Providers will keep the $0.12 solar premium for projects with Participation Agreements executed by December 31, 2012.  However, TVA will stop accepting Participation Agreements on December 1, 2012 and resume acceptance in January.
  • Local distributors usually take 2-4 weeks to send project documents to TVA, so we encourage application submittals by November 1, 2012.  Some utilities can take even longer, so it is important to get started as soon as possible.

LightWave Solar facilitates the Green Power Providers application for our customers.  Contact us to get started. To visit the Green Power Providers website, please click here.