There are many advantages to using solar to power your home. Solar power contributes to cleaner air, decreases your carbon footprint, and creates local jobs for solar installers. Solar provides a fixed energy price vs. the continual rise in electricity prices with other forms of generation. For our electricity provider, Nashville Electric Service (NES), retail rates will increase by approximately 3% beginning October 2017.
Installing solar panels on your roof may be less expensive than you think. So-called “grid parity” is reached when renewable energy, such as rooftop solar, is less than or equal to the price of purchasing fossil fuel energy. Around 20 states are currently at grid parity for residential solar. The price for installing solar has dramatically decreased over the last 10 years. As shown in Figure 1, there was a 61% reduction in the cost of residential solar PV system from 2010 to 2017. Additionally, there is a 30% federal tax credit for the cost of installing solar. This credit will decrease incrementally, with no credit for systems placed in service after January 2022.
Figure 1. Residential solar PV system cost. Data source: U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2017 by NREL.
Maybe you’ve researched what it would take to install solar panels on your roof. Here are some examples that you may have considered towards the feasibility of solar panels for your specific situation: Do you own your house? Does it have a south facing roof with the correct angle, or pitch? Is this roof in full sun most of the day? Do you have the money available to buy solar panels? Are you planning to stay in your house for a while? If the answer isn’t yes to all of these questions, don’t despair! Even if you are not a good candidate for rooftop solar, there are other options to allow you to harness solar energy for your electricity needs.
NES gets electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and there is a new program where NES is partnering with TVA, Metro Nashville, and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to construct the first community solar program in Nashville. The 2MW Music City Solar project will be located on a former landfill in North Nashville. By subscribing to the community solar project, customers can “go solar” without installing their own panels. This is ideal for renters and homeowners with shaded rooftops. Anyone with an NES electric account can sign up to purchase solar units consisting of a share of the total output of the community solar array. Construction will begin in late fall 2017 and NES will communicate the details of how to sign up to customers. Socket will help spread the message about this groundbreaking project!
Another option available to NES customers is the Green Power Switch program. By signing up and purchasing green power blocks, customers can ensure that they use renewable electricity from wind, solar and methane gas. How does this work, since electricity from renewable resources and fossil fuel sources mixes together on the electric power grid? Every unit of renewable energy that gets added to the grid generates a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC). You can purchase this REC, which ensures that you are using this unit of renewable energy. It is how we keep track of green power. Green Power Switch is TVA’s program to keep track of RECs. By purchasing green power blocks, you help the regional renewable energy market to grow, since TVA is obligated to add enough renewable energy to the grid for all the Green Power Switch customers.
It is also possible to buy RECs from other sources. Make sure the RECs that you purchase are third-party certified by an independent company such as Green-e Energy. This way, you will know that each REC is independently tracked and verified. Be mindful that purchasing RECs from sources other than TVA will support projects outside Tennessee with the benefits of the renewable energy project such as local jobs flowing to other communities.
Whether you plan to add solar panels to your roof, sign up for community solar from Music City Solar, buy renewable energy through the Green Power Switch program or buy Renewable Energy Credits, there is a way for you to benefit from clean energy. Find the way that works for you!