Bedford County – Thanks in part to a “green incentive” pilot program being offered by Tennessee Valley Authority, Duck River Electric Membership Corp. (DREMC) recently installed a new solar farm behind its headquarters in Shelbyville, and customers are invited to participate.
Through a uniquely devised investment program, the new DREMC Solar Farm allows its members to invest in solar energy without the cost of installing or maintaining their own system.
“Many people don’t want to incur the cost of home solar installation, or their location isn’t ideal for solar because of their home design or an abundance of shade trees in the yard,” said Jim Allison, president and chief executive officer of DREMC. “This program allows our members to participate in solar energy sustainability efforts at a fraction of the cost of installing their own system.”
The newly constructed 25.92 kilowatt solar farm consists of three large, free-standing structures consisting of 36 panels each, for a total of 108 panels, and customers may invest in as little as one-half of one of these panels for $600.
In return, the customer will receive energy credits on their monthly bill based on the power generated by their portion(s) of ownership in the farm.
According to Brad Gibson, member services director at DREMC, the cooperative decided to spearhead the solar project for several reasons.
“First of all, we’re trying to take advantage of the premium pricing incentives being offered by TVA’s Generation Partners Program. “Normally we purchase power from TVA at wholesale rates and distribute it to our customers at the retail rate of roughly 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. But this program is somewhat reversed, so that TVA will pay us the retail rate for each kilowatt-hour we generate, plus a premium of 12 cents on top of that. In turn, since we’re a non-profit cooperative, we will pass the full credit of 22 cents per kilowatt-hour on to the customers who invest, based on their level of investment.”
Gibson said the amount of credit will fluctuate each month, depending on the amount of sunshine and other factors, but that it should average roughly $3.50 to $4.50 per month for the minimum investment, with a payback period of roughly 10 years.
“Secondly, we’re trying to support solar manufacturing in Tennessee, and these panels were made by Sharp’s solar panel manufacturing facility in Memphis,” he said.
“Finally, since we have three different schools right nearby, an elementary, a middle school and a high school, we saw it as an educational opportunity for students to learn about solar and renewable energy.”
Gibson said students will be invited to visit the facility periodically to keep track of the amount of solar power generated each month and year.
An online portal will also allow students and customers to view the facility’s energy production in real time, or within about 15 minutes.
According to its website, Duck River Electric is the fourth largest electric cooperative in the state, providing power to approximately 71,000 homes and businesses in all or portions of Moore, Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, Maury, Rutherford, Warren and Williamson counties.
For more information, visit www.DREMC.com, or contact headquarters at (931) 684-4621.