TVA reopens applications for solar installations, briefly

Published August 13, 2013

WPLN News | August 5, 2013

The Tennessee Valley Authority has once again cut off applications for homes and small businesses wanting to add solar panels and sell power back to the utility.  TVA opened up the pipeline for hopefuls last week, and within hours got more than enough to close it again for months.

When you get power from solar panels on your roof, you can sell some of it to TVA, spinning your electric meter backwards and shrinking your bill.  In fact, TVA pays more to buy solar power you create than it charges to sell people electricity off the grid.  But with a limited budget for TVA to buy solar, not every project gets approved.

Brian Bickel is in charge of sales and marketing for the solar installer Lightwave.  He says the awkward timing complicates long-range plans to line up new customers.

“We’re dealing with direct mail, we’re dealing with radio advertising, we’re dealing with the various avenues that we use—many times we have to sign 90-day contracts for those things.  So we run the risk of having campaigns active and all of a sudden not having a program to sell.  It just creates a lot of chaos.”

TVA says it wants to be deliberate in how it pays for solar, and notes there’s still room for larger projects.  The same day the agency opened up applications for smaller setups, it announced a sprawling new solar farm in West Tennessee.  TVA says it will produce more power than all the smaller ones put together, while costing less.

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