Friday, May 1, 2009

Generation Partners Expanded

Program offers incentives for renewable energy
By Ed Marcum

TVA has released details of an expanded renewable-energy program, offering more incentives such as $1,000 toward installation costs for solar, wind, biomass and other renewable-energy systems that homes and businesses can use to produce electricity and sell it to TVA.

The incentives are offered through the Generation Partners pilot program, in which customers sell all the power they generate to the federal utility and their local power providers reimburse them through credits on their monthly electric bills.

Under the new guidelines, instead of paying a flat 15 cents per kilowatt hour to residential and small-business customers and 20 cents per kilowatt hour to larger customers, TVA will pay 12 cents per kilowatt hour above the local electric rate and any fuel cost adjustments for solar power and 3 cents per kilowatt hour above those rates and adjustments for other low-impact sources such as wind, hydro and biomass.

Also, TVA has increased the maximum installation size allowed from 50 kilowatts to 999 kilowatts.

TVA spokesman Jim Allen said these incentives are not yet available but will be soon as the utility signs contracts with area distributors such as KUB.

TVA started the Generation Partners program in 2003 and now has 68 Tennessee Valley homeowners taking part. The program is taking on added significance as TVA prepares to meet anticipated federal mandates that could call for as much as 20 percent of the power it sells to be produced through renewable sources. TVA has announced a goal of buying 2,000 megawatts of renewable or clean energy by 2010 and eventually intends to produce half the electricity it sells through renewable sources by 2020.

The costs of a renewable energy system can vary, but TVA estimates that a typical solar system, producing 1.5-2 kilowatts, would cost $8-$10 per watt for parts and installation, or $12,000-$20,000. A 2-kilowatt solar system would produce about $44 per month in energy credits for its owner, according to TVA.

Solar systems are among the more expensive renewable systems. Wind systems, for example, typically cost $2-$4 per watt for parts plus installation, TVA said.

Through its Generation Partners program, TVA offers technical support to install renewable energy systems. To qualify for the program, the equipment and its installation must undergo an environmental review and meet other standards. The system must have a total generating capacity of at least 500 watts but less than 1 megawatt.

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