Energy Mentor Network needs YOU to help grow TN startups!

Starting last year, ARiES President Harvey Abouelata committed to mentoring a Tennessee-based energy startup through our membership in the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council. As a mentor, Harvey was paired with Solar Site Design, a cloud-based content management platform that offers customer acquisition and project development for solar professionals.  Solar Site Design was founded in January 2013 by Jason and Samantha Loyet. They have participated in multiple startup accelerator programs and the company was chosen as a winner of the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. ARiES would not be where it is today without help from the Knoxville entrepreneurial community — lookin’ at you Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Pecha Kucha, Startup Day and many more! So we take paying it forward pretty seriously. TAEBC’s mentor program welcomes a wide range of mentors who have varying amounts of time to devote to the program (Usually about 1-5 hours a week). They don’t just need energy company founders — Mentors are also asked to serve based upon experience  raising capital, growing successful companies or as marketing, finance, or technical experts. TAEBC still has openings available – be a mentor like Harvey! Check out the program... Read More

SolarReviews names ARiES Solar to Top 100 Residential Solar Installers

ARiES Solar has again been recognized by SolarReviews as one of the site’s top residential installers. A big part of that is due to reviews from our fabulous customers — we thank you! You may recall this summer we received a Top 500 award from Solar Power — but Solar Reviews is a bit different in a GOOD way for small, local businesses like us! Here’s what they have to say about the Top 100 program: For a couple of years now SolarReviews has provided data to the Solar Power World Top Installers List and we will continue to do so. However, we thought that because reviews score is only one thing considered in these lists … some of the small and medium sized installers that were recording much higher levels of customer satisfaction were being overlooked. We congratulate these companies and the contribution they are making to the solar industry. ARiES was one of only two Tennessee companies to be ranked nationally on the list and we ranked second in Tennessee. Again – many thanks to our customers who’ve taken the time to leave us a review. Haven’t reviewed us yet? You can leave your review at the ARiES Solar  SolarReviews profile page.... Read More

Is Sense the smart home monitor you need? We tried it out!

As smart homes, smart devices and the Internet of Things become a reality, several manufacturers are offering tools to track the energy use for all those devices as well as standard equipment you may already own. One of those is Sense, a startup company whose founders developed voice recognition software. The company is betting its home energy monitor system ($299) can take over the niche by appealing to energy-conscious homeowners through its simplicity, ease of use and clean design. Sense emphasizes the value of knowing where, when and how you use power by having a “conversation” with your home — your home talks, Sense “listens.” Sense uses current sensors on the main breakers in your electric panel to monitor all electricity use in your home.  Each device uses power differently, and the key to Sense is its proprietary algorithm that is able to analyze that electric use and detect individual devices based on their electric signature over time. Since ARiES is based in a residential home that was converted to commercial office space, we decided to test it on ourselves (commercial monitoring is not available for Sense currently due to power differences). We installed the monitor November 1, 2016. It was pretty easy; we recommend you hire an electrician to install the system since you’ll need to work in your home’s electric panel.  Sense fits inside most panels and connects current sensors to the main breakers.  For our ARiES pros, it took less than 30 minutes. The Good Ease of installation Simple, attractive App interface Several heavily used appliances (Fridge, microwave) detected in the first week or so Alerts moved us to do... Read More

South Carolina legislature looks at two renewable energy bills early in 122nd session

Update:  The C-PACE legislation was approved by Senate subcommittee on Feb. 15! The legislation was changed to remove an option to allow county governments to issue bonds to finance C-PACE improvements. S.261 went to the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, which “carried over the bill to do additional work,” according to the South Carolina Association of Counties. The Renewable Energy Property Tax Act was approved by the Senate! It is now being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee. ——————————————- South Carolina legislators this week took a look at two bills covering renewable energy property tax incentives and financing. –The Renewable Energy Property Tax Act, introduced by Sen. Chauncey ‘Greg’ Gregory, R-Lancaster, was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 17. The bill would give an 80 percent property tax abatement to commercial renewable energy projects. Residential projects would receive a full exemption. It heads to the full Senate next week. –Bills addressing the popular Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, referred to as C-PACE or simply PACE, financing method for renewable energy projects have been introduced in the House and Senate.  The SC Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy Act, by Reps. Dwight Loftis, R-Greenville and Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, would allow commercial property owners to finance clean energy improvements using their property taxes — where local governments allowed it. From the bill: ‘Clean energy improvement’ means a water efficiency measure, energy efficiency measure, or a fixture, product, device, or interacting group of fixtures, products, or devices on the customer’s side of the meter that use one or more clean energy resources or renewable energy resources to generate electricity or create heat or cooling. Clean energy improvements... Read More

Duke Energy customers in South Carolina received $12M in solar rebates in 2016

In only one year, more than 1,800 residential customers and 125 business customers in have applied to participate in Duke Energy’s Solar Rebate Program. The program paid nearly $12 million in rebates to South Carolina customers by the end of 2016. That’s more than double what the utility reported just three months ago. The rebates help with the upfront cost of installing solar panels for customers – making the technology more accessible to the company’s 730,000 customers in the state. “Our customers have responded very positively to our solar rebate program,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president. “It’s expanded the choices our customers have in meeting their energy needs by helping to lower the upfront costs associated with building solar installations.” Act 236, an omnibus solar bill passed by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2014, opened the door for Duke Energy to offer a variety of solar programs to customers. The rebate program provides $1 per watt for qualified residential customers who install systems up to 20 kilowatts on their property; and for business customers who install systems up to 1 megawatt on their property. Nonprofit and governmental entities may be eligible to receive a rebate of $1.50 per watt for systems up to 20 kilowatts on their property. More than 40 megawatts-ac of solar power is scheduled to come online already, putting Duke Energy more than halfway to the 53-megawatt goal cited by the act. With the rebate program nearing capacity, a waiting list has been established for some of the offerings associated with this program. All applications for the rebate program must be... Read More

Appalachian Electric powers up TN’s first utility scale community solar array!

Update: See a timelapse video of the entire Appalachian Electric array construction in New Market, TN   After months of work, ARiES partner Appalachian Electric Cooperative today officially powered on its 1.37 megawatt community solar installation in New Market, Tennessee. It’s the first utility-scale community solar project in the state. “Today is a milestone in the life of our co-op – completion of its first renewable generation resource,” said Robert Drinnon, president of AEC’s board of directors. “Careful planning and oversight brought us here. Resources were leveraged for the good of the AEC membership.” More than 200 of the cooperative’s members have already subscribed to some 700 of the array’s solar panels. Subscriptions to the panels are through the Co-Op Community Solar Program and are open to residential and commercial members of the cooperative. AEC members subscribe to the generation output of individual solar panels, rated at 145 watts each, for a one-time cost of $125. John and Joan Barnhill were the first AEC members to subscribe through the program. The couple had planned to put solar on their home, but did not want to sacrifice the decades-old shade trees that blocked significant sunlight from reaching their roof. Individuals like the Barnhills, as well as those who rent or otherwise cannot own their own solar are some of the greatest beneficiaries of a community solar program. In addition, by leveraging the economies of scale, members reap all the environmental and sustainability benefits of solar generation at a much lower cost than the typical home install. For more details on the project, see our Utility Community Solar page. You can also follow... Read More

Santee Cooper increases solar incentives for SC rooftop, community solar programs

South Carolina utility Santee Cooper has increased its commitment to solar energy by boosting incentives for customers who install rooftop solar or participate in Solar Share, the utility’s community solar subscription program. “We launched these programs last spring to help our customers invest in solar power and cut their electric bills over the life of the program,” said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and CEO, in a press release. “With good feedback from our customers, we’ve made the programs even better. These new incentives cut in half, approximately, the time it takes the solar investment to pay for itself.” New incentives include larger per-watt rebates. The rebate for residential Solar Home and Solar Business customers who install rooftop panels is now $1.60 per watt, up from $1.30. The rebate for customers who invest in Solar Share community solar is now $1.40 per watt, up from $1. Also, rebates are now applicable for up to 6-kilowatt installations, where the programs originally limited rebates to 4 kW of installed capacity. Other South Carolina service providers, including Duke Energy and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), also offer solar incentive programs. These can be combined with additional federal and state tax incentives for renewable energy. Under the new incentives, a customer who purchases a 17-year, 4-kW Solar Share subscription could recover that investment in just under five years, according to the utility. A residential customer who uses an average 1,762 kWh each month and installs a 4-kW rooftop solar array could recover that investment in less than six years. Santee Cooper’s board of directors will reassess the terms of Solar Share, Solar... Read More

Wacker adding 2nd Tennessee facility to process byproducts of polysilicon manufacturing for solar

As the solar industry continues to benefit from growing consumer interest and widespread acceptance, Tennessee is poised reap benefits as a key location in the solar manufacturing process.  In December, Wacker Chemie AG announced it will invest $150 million in a new Tennessee production plant for its HDK brand of pyrogenic silica at its Charleston site in Southeast Tennessee. That’s on top of the more than $2 billion already invested in the company’s current location, which opened in the spring. “The additional capacities strengthen our market position as a leading global producer of pyrogenic silica and help us to meet our customers’ growing demand,” Wacker CEO Dr. Rudolf Staudigl said. “The new plant is the next logical step toward expanding Charleston into a fully integrated silicon site in the world’s second largest chemical market.” The company plans to hire 50 new employees for the operation, bringing total employment in Charleston to 700. Located adjacent to and integrated with Wacker’s existing polysilicon plant, the new production plant will have an annual capacity of 13,000 metric tons. Construction will begin in the second quarter of next year, with completion planned for the first half of 2019. “Wacker announced its plans to join the Charleston business community less than eight years ago and in that short time, it has had a significant impact on the state,” said Randy Boyd, Tennessee’s Community Development Commissioner, in a press release. “The company’s $2.5 billion investment represents the largest single investment in Tennessee’s history, and we’re proud to see that Wacker’s continued confidence in the state’s highly-skilled workforce and dedication to innovation has resulted in expanding its... Read More

U.S. solar installations break record in 3Q 2016

The solar industry in the United States installed nearly 2 Megawatts of solar per hour in the third quarter of 2016. — that’s enough energy production to power about 328 homes. 4,143 megawatts (MW) of solar PV were installed in the U.S. in the third quarter of the year, a rate of one MW every 32 minutes, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q4 2016 U.S. Solar Market Insight report. That record won’t stand for long, though, because the organization estimates Q4 production will be even higher. The report points to an “unprecedented rate of project completion” in the utility-scale segment as a key growth driver. Utilities, particularly in the Southeast, continue to seek additional solar assets for their portfolio as a hedge against natural gas prices, researchers said. Procurement via the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act is expected to overtake Renewable Portfolio Standards  as the largest driver of solar in 2017 as developers leverage avoided cost rates in North and South Carolina, Oregon and Utah. State rankings Mississippi ranked 39th in solar installations in Q3 2016, was ranked 38th in 2015 and is currently 40th in cumulative solar installations among all US states. South Carolina ranked 20th in solar installations in Q3 2016, was ranked 37th in all of 2015 and 28th in cumulative solar installations overall. Tennessee ranked 25th in solar installations in the third quarter of this year, was ranked 31st in 2015 and is currently ranked 22nd in cumulative solar installations. “Coming off our largest quarter ever and with an extremely impressive pipeline ahead, it’s safe to say the state of the solar industry... Read More