LightWave Solar project featured as ARRA Sucess Story

Published January 12, 2011

Tennessee Small Businesses See Solar as New Possibility
Posted: September 20, 2010

Two years ago, if you told Jan and Karl Heinrich, owners of H&H Design, that their rural, family-owned custom piping business in Gallatin, Tenn., would be part of the rapid expansion of installed solar capacity in the state, both would have responded skeptically.

“It just wasn’t anything I had thought about until June of this year,” Heinrich said.

This was before Heinrich learned that the State of Tennessee had established the Tennessee Solar Institute and launched the Solar Installation Grant program earlier this year. The program paid off for Heinrich – H&H Design received a $67,000 grant under the Solar Installation Grant Program to install a 34.56 kW solar PV system on it rooftop.

“I started seeing news stories about other solar projects being developed in the state and decided to look into the possibility of installing a system at our office,” Heinrich said. “If it wasn’t a positive investment, we wouldn’t have done it, but the payoff and rate of return was a good fit for us personally. As a small business, anything that helps reduce our costs will help sustain our business long term, and this system will do just that. This system will save us thousands per year in energy costs.”

H&H Design is one of the first recipients of the Solar Installation Grants awarded by the Tennessee Solar Institute. Since the launch of the program, 108 grants totaling just over $9 million have been awarded by the Institute. Once complete, these projects will bring an estimated 5.8 MW of additional installed nameplate solar capacity to the electrical grid in Tennessee. The $9 million of grant funds has leveraged approximately $24 million of additional private capital, bringing the aggregate investment of all projects to just over $33 million.

“The Solar Installation grants are an important tool in the expansion of Tennessee’s renewable energy portfolio and one of the reasons Tennessee is considered a leader in the deployment of clean energy technology under Governor Bredesen,” said Matt Kisber, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “Tennessee companies, like H&H Design, understand using renewable energy makes them more competitive, and they should be applauded for their vision.”

H&H’s story is illustrative of the rapid expansion of the solar industry over the last three years in Tennessee. In 2008, less than 1 MW of solar was installed in Tennessee; today, there is about 2.5 MW. By June 1, 2011, it is projected that there will be 15 to 20 MW of solar capacity on Tennessee’s electrical grid.

This rapid increase is due much in part to a push by the State of Tennessee to boost solar capacity through a series of programs, including Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s Volunteer State Solar Initiative.

The Volunteer State Solar Initiative, a comprehensive solar energy and economic development program focusing on job creation, education, renewable power production and technology commercialization was established in 2009 using $62.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding received by the Department of Economic and Community Development through the State Energy Program in 2009. The Tennessee Solar Institute is a component of the Initiative and will focus on industry partnerships to improve the affordability and efficiency of solar products for consumers like Jan and Karl Heinrich.

The state-established Tennessee Solar Institute is a center of excellence between the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory that brings together scientists, engineers and technical experts with business leaders and policymakers to help speed the deployment of solar photovoltaic technology. Its mission is to advance the understanding of solar innovation and to inspire new ideas that speed the deployment and implementation of solar-based technology in Tennessee.