Tennessee Records Strong Solar Growth in 2014
Showing strong growth over prior years, Tennessee more than doubled its amount of installed solar capacity in 2014, according to the recently-released U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review. What’s more, Tennessee was one of only four states nationwide to have 100 percent of its new electrical capacity come from solar energy.
In 2014, Tennessee added 56 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity, bringing its total to 130 MW. That’s enough clean, affordable energy to power nearly 15,000 homes. The report went on to point out that Tennessee’s biggest solar gains came in utility-scale installations, but commercial and residential installations increased, as well. Of the new capacity added, 52 MW were utility-scale, 2 MW were commercial and 2 MW were residential. Together, these installations represented nearly a $100 million investment across Tennessee.
“To put the state’s solar growth in some context, the 130 MW of solar PV installed today in Tennessee is nearly as much as the entire country had installed by 2004. And frankly, the state is just scratching the surface of its enormous potential,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Looking forward, we expect 2015 to be another good year for new PV installations across the state.”
Today, there are 150 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in Tennessee, employing more than 2,200 people. Notable Tennessee solar projects include:
- Volkswagen’s 33-acre solar park in Chattanooga. Developed by Phoenix Solar, this photovoltaic (PV) project has the capacity to generate 8 MW of electricity– enough to power more than 600 Tennessee homes.
- At 4 MW, West Tennessee solar farm in Haywood County is among the largest solar installations in Tennessee. Completed by Signal Energy, this PV project has enough electric capacity to power more than 300 homes.
- At a combined 40 MW, the Selmer and Mulberry solar farms in McNairy County are tied for the largest solar installations in Tennessee. Completed in 2014 by Strata Solar, these two PV projects have enough capacity to power more than 4,800 homes. Between these two projects, more than $76 million was added to the local property tax base.
In addition to a growing commercial sector, the Tennessee residential market also showed gains last year, with installed system prices dropping by 8 percent – and down a total of 49 percent since 2010. Nationwide, the U.S. residential market added 1.2 GW of installed capacity in 2014, marking the first time that this growing sector surpassed 1 GW of clean, affordable solar. Residential also continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.
“Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide – more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined – and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy,” Resch added. “This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. and Tennessee economies, as well as for our environment.”