SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Growing Solar Capacity in the Tennessee Valley through “Generation Partners”


Prior to2002, individuals living in the TVA service territory faced many legal andtechnical hurdles before they could connect their solar systems to the grid.Working with TVA, SACE Executive Director Dr. Stephen A. Smith and BoardPresident John Noel played an integral role in the development of Generation Partners, the program that addresses these hurdles and streamlines theprocess of grid-tying consumers’ renewable energy generation. GenerationPartners was launched in 2003, and created “net metering” standards for TVAcustomers. Net metering allows a home or business to sell excess renewableenergy back to a utility. When a home’s solar PV system generates moreelectricity than the home uses, the excess energy feeds back into the grid andthe homeowner receives a credit on their monthly bill.

Beginningin 2009, TVA began paying a 12-cent premium per kWh over the retail cost(currently 21 cents) and providing $1,000 to defray initial costs. According to TVA, as of July2011 the total installed capacity of renewables in the Generation Partnersprogram was 23 MW (23,000 kW), which represents a huge increase over the 300 kW ofprivately owned renewables in TVA’s service area that existed in 2007.

Knoxville Named as a Solar America City

In 2008,the Department of Energy (DOE) chose Knoxville, Tennessee, as one of 25 citiesacross the U.S. to bea Solar America City. SACE collaborated with the cityof Knoxville, allowing Knoxville to become one of only three cities chosen fromthe Southeast. TVA matched funding with the DOE for this three-year program, whichaimed to streamline the installation process for solar projects in targetedcities. This included refining the permitting process to reduce the time and effort necessary to certify that solar projects meet code requirements, as wellas training solar installers and city officials on safety aspects ofresidential-scale solar projects. SACE staff collaborated with the city tomanage the program, which boosted Knoxville’s total solar capacity from 15 kWat the beginning of the program to more than 1,400 kW in 2011, nearly a100-fold increase.

Knoxville’sexperiences as a Solar America City will provide other Southern cities with aframework to expandtheir solar capacity. SACE is excited to see the rapiddevelopment of solar technology improve air and water quality by reducing emissions offine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, and createcleaner, healthier communities in the Southeast.