SACE Solar Array Shines In Its First Year

Stephen Smith | March 25, 2013 | Energy Policy, Solar

Just over a year ago we made the decision to continue to practice what we preach with the installation and activation of our own solar photovoltaic array at our Knoxville, TN office.  As part of a series of energy efficiency improvements to our new office, we knew that installing the solar system was the ideal way to raise awareness of solar power in our community, and save money on our electric bills, all while making use of the clean, abundant energy provided by the sun.  We worked with a local business, Green Earth Solar, on a design that was right for our space and ended up with a 9.6kW ground-mounted system, designed with components made in the USA and most made here in Tennessee.

Now that a year has passed, we thought it would be worthwhile to take a look back at how the system has performed since installation.   From a visibility standpoint, we’ve been happy with the interest the community has shown in our array.  From classroom visits by University of Tennessee students eager to learn more about renewable energy to our inclusion as part of the Knoxville Solar Tour, the system has served as an educational tool for our neighbors wanting to see solar power in action.  On top of that, the location of the installation near a busy roadway provides daily visibility to passersby, some of who take the time to stop into the office and find out more about SACE’s work or about resources for solar power in our community.

Click image to view the full bill

We couldn’t be happier with the impact that the solar array has had on our utility bill.  You might remember that SACE signed up to be part of the Generation Partners expanded pilot program, in which TVA, through our local utility KUB, gave us a $1,000 credit to offset the cost of our system’s installation.  The ongoing benefit to the program is that TVA purchases the power produced by our system at a rate of 12 cents per kilowatt hour above the retail rate.  Though the monthly output from the system varies with the seasons, higher in the summer and lower in the winter, the net production from the system has exceeded our energy consumption, meaning that we have seen a decline in our bills to the point that KUB in fact owes us money for the power that we provide to the grid.  We receive payment in the form of a credit to our monthly utility bill.  At the end of twelve consecutive months of having a credit on our account, KUB will issue us a check for the amount owed to us.  In addition to the satisfaction of seeing our bills go down, we’re even happier knowing that our system is feeding clean and safe solar energy to the grid.

We knew that we were happy with the way the system has performed over the last year, but what did Green Earth Solar, who installed our system, think?  Michael “Chip” Mincey, President, had this to say:

“The SACE system has been up 100% of the time since installation and has produced 11,520 kWh over the last 12 months, which represents a 12.5% increase over original projections.”

Anyone can track our system’s performance through our page at Sunny Portal and see that Chip’s observations hold up: the system has exceeded expectations for nearly every month it has been active, and a slight under-performance in the winter months is balanced by over-performance in the summer months to produce an overall 12.5% increase above the original estimate.

System data from Sunny Portal

With solar power forecast to become increasingly prevalent as the cost of systems declines and the availability of funding options grows , we hope that more individuals and businesses seize the opportunity to transition to this sustainable, carbon-free energy source.  We’ve certainly been happy so far.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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