When TVA transitioned over from their previous “pilot” solar program (which has been running for the past 4 years) on October 1st, 2012 they made some significant changes. The primary ones having to do with the allowable sizes of PV systems AND the number of PV systems allowed.
The current TVA solar program is an actual program (no longer simply a “pilot” program) that has actual quota’s. In other words, there are only a certain number of MegaWatts that TVA will allow to be installed in the program….. and then they will shut the door each year. Once their annual target number has been reached they will no longer review any applications in that current year. What TVA has done is to introduce scarcity into the mix. Customers now need to apply early in the year to guarantee that they will be able to be accepted into the solar Program. It’s kind of like taking a number at the supermarket. Once you get your number you are in line so that you can eventually “purchase”.
The name of their new program is the Green Power Providers Program. Here are some of the main points to their “revised” program.
- Everyone is eligible for up to a 10kW PV system installed at an exisiting meter location.
- If your kWh usage over the past year is large enough, you can install an even larger PV system (up to the 50 kW maximum).
- TVA will still pay a one time “bonus” of $1000 just for hooking up a PV system to the grid.
- TVA will still be paying a premium for each kWh that your PV system sends back into the grid. The 2013 premium will probably be $.09/kWh ABOVE retail. So…. since the retail rate for used electricity per kWh is $.10, then the rate TVA will purchase all of the kWh’s from your PV system will be $.19/kWh. Whatever premium rate that you contract with TVA will be good for 10 years. The contract will actually continue for 20 years, but for the second 10 years TVA will only pay the retail rate of electricity.
- TVA is planning on every year reducing the premium so that in 3 to 4 years they no longer pay a premium and the program will no longer accept new applications.
- TVA has a certian number of MegaWatts that they will accept into the program. After that they simply shut the door (for that calendar year) on any new applications.
- The program is voluntary, and many utilities have NOT signed up to be participants. Basically that means that your utility company potentially may not allow any of it’s customers to benefit from TVA’s solar program. You would still be able to connect to the grid with a solar system, but you would not be participating in TVA’s program, so you would basically just be sending electricity back into the grid and offsetting your own electrical usage. To find out if your utility is participating in TVA’s program you can see the list of participating providers here.
TVA initiated this new iteration of their solar program on October 1st, 2012. By October 20th or so they had reached their “quota” on capacity and would no longer accept any new solar applications. So in November and December of 2012 nobody can be accepted to install a PV system in Tennessee (under TVA’s program). This “dead period” will occur in 2013 as well, as soon as TVA has reached it’s quota of MW’s in the program they will stop reviewing or accepting PV applications. This image is from TVA’s dashboard website showing that the 2012 program is filled to capacity and therefore not accepting any new applications.
TVA has specifically designed this program to keep people from installing a PV system that generates more electricity than they use at the meter location. It is no longer possible to get a meter and install a 50kW system in order to financially benefit from TVA’s generous buyback premium. Under the current program you are eligible to offset your electrical usage, but not to set up a “solar farm.” Under this program we will probably not be able to continue to offer the “third party financing” model for 50 kW solar systems. TVA’s guidelines have succeeded in taking that option away from Tennessee customers.
So…. one should get their solar applications in early. Many are estimating that the TVA Green Power Provider program will reach it’s “quota” in the first or second quarter of 2013. Anyone desiring to install a PV system after that deadline will be watching others enjoy their solar systems, while they have to wait for the next years program (and the corresponding lower premium that will be paid).
Remember, once you get a contract with TVA locked in at a certain premium, that contract is good for 20 years! The idea is to lock in the contract with the best possible terms, before TVA shuts the doors again (and before they lower the premium). Once you have a contract in your hand you actually have a 6 month window in which to complete the PV installation.
In this game he who hesitates is lost. To be enjoying solar power one must now pull the trigger quickly, or TVA will shut the door right in your face!
Research the prices of a solar system today! You will probably find that solar’s time has come! You will find that the prices for solar systems have dropped dramatically in the past couple of years, the Federal Tax credit (30%) is still available, AND TVA’s program is still paying a premium (if you can get in).
AND solar is a renewable energy that doesn’t “foul our nest.”
Keep on learning!