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TN Solar Installation Projected to be Lowest Since 2011

The solar industry generates more than 7,000 jobs in neighboring North Carolina, while Tennessee companies employ around half that number. (H080/Flickr)
The solar industry generates more than 7,000 jobs in neighboring North Carolina, while Tennessee companies employ around half that number. (H080/Flickr)
June 21, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There's a cloud hanging over solar power in Tennessee, according to analysis being released Thursday by the bipartisan group Tennesseans for Solar Choice.

The coalition includes the Tennessee Small Business Alliance, NAACP, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association, known as TenneSEIA.

The coalition says the Tennessee Valley Authority is slated to install less solar power now than it has since 2011.

Gil Hough, TenneSEIA’s executive director, says the current structure for solar installation is unclear for residents and businesses.

"It seems like each of their programs or processes are broken right now, and it's a little confusing exactly what's going on, making it more challenging for people that want to go solar," Hough states.

Year-to-date solar applications for residential and small business installations are down 73 percent from one year ago.

TVA has three programs – Green Power Providers and Distributed Solar Solutions, plus it accepts proposals for large-scale solar within its RFP program.

In a statement, TVA says it has more than 400 megawatts of solar currently available and is reviewing proposals to add up to 200 additional megawatts.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, says the end result of a solar power decline will be felt in the state's economy.

"Customers are not given choice to be able to put solar on their homes,” he points out. “It means that small businesses are not able to take advantage of solar to help lower their costs. And most importantly, it means we're losing jobs and economic development opportunities."

In comparison, other southern states such as neighboring North Carolina are initiating policies that advance solar.

Smith says the Volunteer State is being left behind.

"Solar power throughout the country and particularly in the Southeast is going like gangbusters,” he states. “There's a tremendous solar development that's happening, all across the southeast.

“Unfortunately, within the Tennessee Valley Authority region and their local power companies, it has come to a virtual standstill."

Tennessee ranks 25th in the nation for installed solar power. North Carolina ranks second, and Georgia ranks eighth.

Stephanie Carson/Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - TN