TVA Announces Cap Reached for Solar Power Purchasing Program

Press release from the Tennessee Environmental Council; May 1, 2013:

TVA has announced it has reached a “cap” and will not purchase power from new midsized solar power generation systems that small businesses, farmers, and homeowners want to install in the Tennessee Valley. TVA’s Green Power Providers has a “cap” on the amount of electricity it will buy based on the size of the system. Systems which generate between 10 kilowatts and 50 kilowatts will no longer be able to sell electricity at a favorable price to TVA until, and if, the program is reopened at some unspecified future date. The program may not be reopened.

“The capacity limits for this segment of TVA’s renewable energy programs for all of 2013 were met in less than four months. An April 24th press release from TVA touts the program as being very successful, but TVA met their target for these programs much earlier than expected due to poor planning. TVA approved over 250 small-scale, renewable energy projects for their Green Power Providers and Solar Solutions Initiative programs in 2013, but the demand and potential is significantly higher,” said John McFadden, Executive Director of the Tennessee Environmental Council.

The Green Power Providers and Solar Solutions programs are a significant driver for mid-size solar installations in Tennessee. Without these incentives, industry leaders believe the losses to the growing solar industry in Tennessee will cost jobs and money for citizens and businesses. Tennessee, which has climbed to 14th in installed solar capacity in the United States, will fall behind instead of gaining ground.

Lightwave Solar, a Nashville-based solar photovoltaic (PV) system design and installation firm has laid off two employees in 2013 because of softening demand. Gary Wolf of Sundog Solar laments, “If Sundog Solar can’t sign up another customer until January of 2014, I’ll be out of business before the end of the year and my crew, trained in solar at a Tennessee state school, will be out of jobs. An annual program that lasts four months has at least one obvious problem – size. The caps don’t respond to market demand, they force homeowners to compete with commercial interests for solar space, and they undermine job creation and steady employment in one of the nation’s fastest growing sectors.”

“The ill-conceived construction of TVA’s incentive programs for small and mid-sized solar PV systems has created an unnecessary stop and go situation. Sadly, it is homeowners, small businesses and regional solar installers that are disproportionately impacted,” says Michael Levesque, Chief Operations Officer of Sustainable Future, in Knoxville. “Since these programs are the only programs for solar in Tennessee it restricts private citizens and businesses from installing solar power plants. No one is going to build a solar system and provide power to TVA for free, and why should they? People seeking some control over their energy future have no solar alternative.”

“Reaching the TVA Green Power Providers program capacity so early in the year has only negative effects on solar businesses and solar clients. This program should be available to TVA customers all year long,” adds Ed Zubko, Chief Operations Officer, Green Earth Solar, LLC. “Some of the benefits of the TVA Green Power Providers program to customers are: reduced tax liability, predictable return on investment for the more than 25 year life of the system, saving money on electricity for over 25 years, reduction in the amount of CO2 required to operate a business or residence, support for Tennessee companies with some Tennessee made products available.”

Tennessee Chapter Sierra Club Repower America Chair, Mary Mastin, commented, ”It makes no sense for TVA to say it has a cap on how much fuel-cost-free electricity it will buy from folks who pay to have a solar system installed at their, home, business or farm. If folks want to dig into their savings to build generation capacity so TVA does not need to borrow money and build power plants and burn coal or uranium we all win. Solar generates no air or water pollution, no coal ash, and no danger from radiation and nuclear waste. TVA has withdrawn support for valley residents and business who want to invest their own money to go solar and this is contrary to TVA’s mission and goals”

The April 24 TVA press release can be found at: http://www.tva.com/news/releases/aprjun13/2013_renewable.html