Franklin Gets Solar
Harness the sun and burn away high energy bills
Facing the prospect of double-digit increases in the cost of electricity later this fall, homeowners throughout the Nashville area are discovering a free source of energy.
These homeowners are harnessing the power of the sun to provide at least a portion of the electricity they use, said Steve Johnson, owner of LightWave Solar Electric, a Nashville-based business that installs systems that convert sunlight into electricity.
â€œWeâ€™re seeing increases in electric rates like never before. But there is enough solar energy striking the earth in an hour to provide all of our electrical needs for a year. And a big advantage of solar is that you have no fuel costs,â€ he said.
Once the upfront cost of installation is paid, the energy provided by the sun is free for years to come. An â€œentry levelâ€ residential system costs about $16,000 to install and should last several decades.
Homeowners who go solar can qualify for a credit up to $2,000 on their federal income taxes and a payment of $500 from their local power distributor. Homeowners can also receive a credit on their power bills from the Tennessee Valley Authorityâ€™s Generation Partners program, said Johnson.
Solar homes usually are also connected to the local power grid, so the home still has plenty of electricity if it needs more than the solar unit produces. If the solar system produces surplus electricity, it can go out on the grid for someone else to use and the homeowner will receive a credit, he said.
A solar house looks just like every other home in a neighborhood except for the photovoltaic panels on the roof, which convert sunlight into electricity. An entry-level system requires 200 square feet of silicon panels and will produce two kilowatts.
In the course of a year, such a system will produce 2,400 kilowatt hours of electricity. More panels mean more electricity. For perspective, running 10 100-watt light bulbs for an hour consumes one kilowatt of electricity.
â€œA solar system is scalable. You can produce 10 percent or 100 percent of your power,â€ said Johnson.
Not only is power from the sun free, it is completely clean. Coal, the fuel TVA uses to produce most of its power, releases mercury, carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air.
â€œPeople are turning to solar for environmental reasons, for their grandkids,â€ said Johnson. â€œThe vast majority of Americans think we should do more solar. Think of all this sunlight weâ€™re wasting.â€