KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – The sun is making headlines in the Southeast. A $2.5 billion solar investment in Georgia was announced in mid-January, and after the TVA blackout in December, solar is turning heads and changing some minds.
“There will be some nights when I go past midnight without even touching the net,” Rose Hale said
Compared to regions where sunlight is more reliable, the Tennessee Valley has been slow to adopt residential sunlight, experts shared with WVLT News.
“Every day you have electricity, it’s going to save you some money,” Hale said
Hale is able to power the renovated hay barn primarily with solar energy. According to Hale, his system from Solar Alliance runs in full sun during warmer weeks. He sends only a few dollars to the power company most months.
“Well, we all want to save money, but I wanted to take care of myself in case of a catastrophic accident,” Hale said.
Hale lives in rural Knox County, but loves the peace the sun brings him in bad weather or more cataclysmic situations.
Dr. Charles Sims of the University of Tennessee said it may be one of the reasons people living in rural areas are embracing solar energy.
“We’ve seen a lot of interesting high-paying requests in rural areas that I didn’t even expect,” Sims said.
Sims surveyed 3,000 people around the Tennessee Valley to find out what struck them: when their timers went off.
“What we’ve found is that the biggest driver is really the upfront cost. So if that cost comes down … it’s going to have a huge impact on adoption,” Sims said.
Dr. Sims found that on average, people around the Valley are only willing to pay $500 for home solar, but businesses won’t tolerate “blackout dates” after recent blackouts.
“The thought that you could be without power for a day or two, disrupting production, is a pretty big incentive,” Sims said.
It was an incentive Hale was willing to pay.
“It was a relief,” Hale said. “It was good to know the fridge would keep working if something broke.”
Solar energy for personal or residential use is a big investment. Hale has 30 panels and thousands of battery installations. With that much money, people should do their research.
People who rent have another problem. Experts from the Solar Alliance said that tenants do not have the right to install solar panels. Some communities come with “community solar” that allows people to buy solar panels even if they are not on their premises.
Solar Alliance’s Anne Brock said it’s also important for people to know who they’re hiring. “Save yourself the headache by making sure you can rely on a reputable, licensed company that has a good working relationship with your city, county and utility company,” Brock said.
Brock recommended asking the installer if they are staffed by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. NABCEP is a solar certification that requires continuing education.
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