by Gene Burr, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church(TVUUC) Green Team member
A year ago, we had essentially given up our dream of in-stalling a solar array on our building. Shortly after FLS Energy and Green Earth Solar submitted our application to the Tennessee Solar Institute, we learned that the grant funds allocated to Tennessee ($9M) had been committed to other projects. We were advised that only in the event that other applicants dropped out would our project be funded. But, that’s what happened, and the solar panels have been installed—117 of them! We are still holding our collective breath, trying to accept what is hard to believe— that we would have this opportunity to demonstrate what we believe about using clean energy while investing in a more sustainable future for TVUUC.
The 28.7 kW solar energy system being installed on our roof will generate 37,663 kW-hours annually, and offset 27 tons of CO2 per year. We have used an innovative model to finance the array, one of the first “third party ownership models” in Tennessee.
The total cost of the system is $163, 419, for which FLS Energy is receiving a $57,400 federal “stimulus” grant (from American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009) on our behalf. TVUUC has paid $22,500 as our share of the cost—the balance of the total cost being absorbed by FLS and “third party investors” which receive a 30% fed- eral tax credit that we could not access as a non-profit or- ganization. TVUUC also receives a $1000 grant from TVA for participation in their Generation Partners pro- gram. A bonus that we are to receive from the Knoxville- Knox County Community Action Committee, in return for energy conservation steps we have undertaken over the past five years, is a $15,000 solar grant that will offset our initial investment of $22,500, leaving a net investment of $7,500 by TVUUC.
The future sustainability that TVUUC will benefit from is an offset of approximately 40% of our electric utility costs ($3,500 annually) during years 6-10 of our ten-year part- nership with FLS Energy. At the end of our agreement, we will have the option to renew and continue to receive the solar income from FLS Energy, or we may choose to own the system outright, at a depreciated cost. The solar panels carry a 25-year warranty