LightWave Solar opens Knox area office

Published July 10, 2015

Knox News Sentinel

March 3, 2015 

With solar energy costs falling and interest in sustainability rising in East Tennessee, the time is right for Nashville-based LightWave Solar to expand east, said Jon Bates, who heads the company’s new office in the Knoxville area.

LightWave Solar opened its East Tennessee office Jan. 1, Bates said. For now, he operates it out of his home in Lenoir City, but as business grows, LightWave will open a permanent office somewhere in the area.

“We will expand with sales and administrative people and installation crews,” he said Tuesday. “We have already exceeded our goals for almost the first quarter in East Tennessee.”

While the Knoxville office is something new, the company is no stranger to the area. It has an office in Johnson City and has done a number of solar installations in East Tennessee. It now is working on a 1 megawatt solar installation at East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge. Restoration Services Inc. and Vis Solis are developing the project, which will have 3,269 solar modules and feed the electricity produced into the TVA power grid.

The company also will start holding its Commercial Solar Lunch and Learn events in East Tennessee. These explain government financial incentives available for commercial solar installations. The first will be held 11:30 a.m.1p.m. Friday, March 20 at BB&T, 900 S. Gay St. The event is free and open to the public.

The costs of solar installations has dropped 50 percent in Tennessee throughout the past three years, Bates said, and demand is up across the state.

With institutions such as the University of Tennessee’s Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and others driving a focus on sustainability, the Knoxville area is a prime market for solar power, Bates said.

TVA offers incentives to producers of green power — agreeing to buy a certain amount of electricity from them at a premium price. While the solar industry in Tennessee has criticized TVA for running its incentive programs erratically, Bates said the federal utility has improved.

“This year they have been showing a little more interest and willingness to work with us and give a little more capacity,” Bates said. 

That also was a factor in LightWave’s expansion into Knoxville, he said.