TVA launches community solar initiative

photo Solar panels, like these atop Chattanooga Bakery Co., could soon be limited to those that pay for them in full. The Tennessee Valley Authority may cut off subsidies for future such installations for the remaining days of 2013.
photo Christian Kipker and Vicky Alt stand in the rain under their solar panel at their Cohutta, Ga., home in this file photo. As part of the TVA generation partners program they put power back into the TVA grid for 20 days, giving them a monetary credit on their electric bill.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is trying to capture all the rays of sunlight with a new community solar initiative designed to add at least 500 kilowatts of solar generation at utility or government properties.

The innovative approach tries to provide renewable credits and tax breaks for industry, the chance for residents to promote more solar power and the opportunity for TVA to get more renewable power to comply with a 2-year-old settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

TVA began soliciting proposals under the new Solar Aggregated Value and Education (SAVE) program last month. Program director Neil Placer said TVA expects to have one or two solar projects added to its grid by 2015.

Community solar initiatives are under development or already built in more than 40 sites across the country. But TVA's program is somewhat unique in the upfront purchase of Renewable Energy Credits that are directly tied to generation from a local solar facility.

Such credits are sometimes purchased to meet legislative or regulatory mandates, meet internal goals, support environmental stewardship or just offer public recognition of green efforts. Similar to the voluntary Green Power Switch, the SAVE program also is designed to encourage the public to raise money or buy into larger solar projects without having to fund the entire project and without TVA raising basic electric rates to cover the costs.

"One of the most exciting components of this initiative is that the community, by working together, can have direct impact on the final capacity size of the project," Placer said.

TVA will begin considering proposals in November and select participants next April. More information is available at

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