Tour Shines Light On How Solar Power Works
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John Barker with Middle TN Electric Membership Corporation explains the solar grid tie interconnection. (DEBBIE SMITH photos)

All across the country over the last few Saturdays, the national solar tour has been happening. Businesses and residents with solar installations have opened their doors to provide the public an opportunity to see up close how solar power works.

The focus of the tour in Cannon County was the large installation at the Arts Center of Cannon County. That installation won the 2011 Governor’s Energy Leadership Award.  The tour was organized by Neal Appelbaum, whose home was also on the solar tour.

Unlike many of the solar tours, the conversation here was a broad discussion of energy efficiency, energy consumption, and energy production. John Barker with Middle TN Electric Membership Corporation presented the history of rural electrification detailing TVA’s mission which has always included a component on efficiency; something that is still important today.

While solar power is a clean, renewable energy option that is growing in popularity, the best use of your energy dollar is spent on efficiency and energy avoidance. MTEMC along with TVA have programs available that help guide you through how to lower your energy consumption.

More insulation in your attic, caulking around doors and windows, replacing energy inefficient appliances and furnaces with energy star rated models, are some of the quickest ways to get a return on your money and lower your energy bill. Simply turning off the lights and hanging your laundry out to dry are steps most can take.  Plugging computers and TVs into powerstrips with kill-switches is another easy step; many of those machines use as much power when turned “off” as when on.

With overall energy demand increasing annually at 4% and energy costs increasing at 3%, the average home’s consumption and costs can be expected to more than double over the next 20 years. If each homeowner makes good energy investment decisions today, they can save money and the need to build more powerplants might be avoided.  It is in everyone’s interest including TVA’s to manage energy demand so that no more power plants are needed. They are very costly to permit, locate, build, and manage.

Also speaking at the solar tour was Pete Vash, an engineer with LightWave Solar. His company designed and installed the system at the Arts Center. They work all across the TVA service area. Vash explained how solar power is made in the panel itself, how the panels are routed together through the inverters – which convert DC current to AC current, and how the power is metered and connected to the grid.

Basically, there is a small powerplant on the Arts Center roof that is expected to produce energy for the next 30 years with minor maintenance and no moving parts. Lightwave works with businesses and homeowners to size, design, and install grid-tied systems.

If you want to own and operate your own small powerplant, then solar is the way to go. If you want to lower your energy bill, the first step is understanding your energy demands and sources of potential savings. MTEMC can help you with that.

In Home Energy Evaluation: Middle TN Electric Membership Corporation

Why go Solar? LightWave Solar

Neal Appelbaum is a Realtor with Reed Realty and sometimes grantwriter for Woodbury and Cannon County

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Members Opinions:
October 13, 2011 at 8:07am
This is the kind of story that needs to be making news in Cannon County: positive, progressive, and innovative. With the mood of the nation and its economy, Tennessee and Cannon County are primed for new opportunities in technology and business. Keep up the good work Neal!

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