By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff WriterPublished: August 28th, 2012
A Tennessee electric cooperative has become the first member-owned utility in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s seven-state service territory to offer consumer-members an ownership stake in a solar farm.
Consumer-members, directors and staff of Duck River EMC examine the co-op’s new solar farm. (Photo By: Duck River EMC)
Duck River EMC is selling more than 200 shares in a nearly 26-kilowatt solar installation constructed outside of the co-op’s headquarters. The limited partnership program will give investing members access to power revenues for 20 years.
“This allows our members to participate in solar energy sustainability efforts at a fraction of the cost of installing their own system,” said Jim Allison, president and CEO of the Shelbyville-based co-op. “The partnership with TVA gives our members the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the solar industry.”
The program was launched Aug. 15, as part of TVA’s Generation Partners program. For a limited time, TVA will pay a premium of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour above current retail rates of about 10 cents per kwh, to help offset participation costs.
“We’ve got 108 solar panels that were manufactured right here in Tennessee,” said Brad Gibson, the co-op’s director of member services. “Each of them is rated at 240 watts, and we are going to allow members to invest in our solar farm in increments of one-half panel at a cost of $600 per unit.”
The co-op spent $128,000 to build the solar farm and is offering up to a year’s financing for the purchase of the panel shares. Investors will receive an energy credit on their monthly statements reflecting their return, Gibson said. “You can estimate about a nine-to-11 year payback on your investment.”
Duck River EMC has already made arrangements with nearby schools to host educational field trips at the site.
“Our board of directors recognizes that the solar industry has been making some significant investments in Tennessee,” said Gibson, adding that several manufacturers and component fabricators are operating in the state. “There’s also a portion of our membership who have wanted to pursue solar projects but haven’t had access to the right site for it.”