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TN Solar Institute report highlights demand, challenges

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following release was issued by the Tennessee Solar Institute. The release, the report and other relevant information can be accessed at the URL at the end of this posting.)

 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A study of Tennessee’s solar industry finds strong solar-installation capacity to support potential future photovoltaic demand. The study also identified installation cost as a significant variable that influences demand for solar energy across the Volunteer State.

The report, “The Tennessee Solar Value Chain: Predictive Model for Estimating Growth of Tennessee’s Solar Industry,” utilized detailed data from 33 solar companies throughout the state. The report was released today by the Tennessee Solar Institute (TSI), and was conducted in conjunction with UT’s Center for Industrial Services and the Department of Industrial and Information Engineering.

Among its findings, the report states that the state’s solar installers have the capacity to install as much as ten times the actual amount of solar installed statewide in 2011. Grants and other incentives are considered a catalyst for the exponential growth of solar in Tennessee, with a decrease in solar installation costs further driving demand, the report says. (Solar prices have dropped approximately 50 percent, according to SEIA’s 2011 “U.S. Solar Market Insight Report”). As prices continue to drop, the report’s model predicts that demand will continue to increase.

The report also identifies four factors that influence the demand for solar energy in Tennessee: installation cost, electric rates, availability of grants, and tax incentives.

“This project focused on understanding the factors necessary for the growth of the solar industry in Tennessee,” said John Sanseverino, Ph.D., director of programs at TSI. “This information will drive strategic planning, with a focus toward long-term sustainability of the industry.”

Other challenges identified as limiting current/future growth include:

  • Lack of public awareness of the benefits of solar energy and its potential impact on the state;
  • Lack of standardization in the areas of interconnection with utilities and consistent local permitting (uniformity would help reduce installation time and costs);
  • Lack of sufficient solar-specific training and education for newly-hired employees of solar companies;  Sudden expiration of current incentives may slow the momentum of the statewide industry.

The latest report follows the December, 2011 release of another study, Tennessee’s Solar Value Chain: A  Workforce Development Needs Assessment. That report detailed the growth of the state’s solar sector and identified 180 for-profit companies in Tennessee’s solar value chain.

About TSI: The Tennessee Solar Institute was launched in 2010 as part of the State of Tennessee’s Volunteer State Solar Initiative–a comprehensive solar energy and economic development program that focuses on job creation, education, renewable power production, and technology commercialization efforts. TSI’s grant programs have leveraged more than $40.3 million in private investments, with a total cumulative benefit to the state’s economy in excess of $63.8 million. For more information and to read the full report, visit: http://solar.tennessee.edu/

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