Straight Talk on Solar from AEC

Thinking about solar? For your own protection, talk to the Co-op FIRST!

They make it sound so good: as if installing solar panels on your roof will mean you can save big bucks on your electric bill—or that you can actually make a ton of money by selling generation back to AEC and/or TVA.

It’s unfortunate, but unscrupulous solar contractors are reaching out to AEC residential members with misleading (and sometimes downright false) information about how solar generation works—specifically, the financial benefits of installing a small-scale solar system.

There are a lot of great reasons to “go solar.” First and foremost, by doing so, you are helping to protect the environment by supporting clean, renewable energy. And it’s certainly true that participating in solar generation can result in savings on your electric bill. However, in most cases, these savings are relatively modest. The amount depends on things like the size of your system and how many hours of sunlight your property receives. (Which, in turn, is based on the time of year, the weather—cloud cover, specifically—and even air temperatures.) Additional factors like the orientation/tilt of your solar panels; their size, wattage, and technology; the amount of shading on your property; and the quality of your “inverter”—the piece of equipment that allows the sun’s rays to be converted to usable electric energy—also play a role in the efficiency of your system.

In other words, installing solar panels is a decision that requires some thought and planning! The good news is, AEC is here to help. Before you sign anything or make a payment of any kind to a solar contractor, CONTACT US FIRST! As the Co-op’s Program Administrator, Carey Rose (x1174) is up on all the latest. She can explain your options and give you guidance on making a wise solar decision. TVA’s online solar calculator is another great tool you’ll want to take advantage of, when it comes to figuring out if solar is right for you. Predict your estimated savings, cost of installation, and payback by visiting

Don’t fall victim to dishonest or ill-informed solar contractors. If their sales pitch sounds too good to be true, that’s probably the case! Avoid being taken advantage of by turning to AEC, your trusted energy advisor. We can provide you will all the information you need to make sure you’re not investing your money in a system with unrealistic “returns” that are based on inaccurate claims. 

Solar myths

Solar panels produce electricity constantly. It varies from season to season, but power is typically generated from around 8 am to 6 pm—with the greatest output occurring between noon and 1 pm, when the sun’s rays are at their peak. Although they produce a small amount of electricity even when it’s cloudy out, their output is greatly diminished. 

Rebates from AEC and tax incentives mean that solar systems practically pay for themselves. Currently, the Federal Investment Tax Credit Program allows you to claim a 30% credit on your income tax return toward the total cost of your system. This credit will gradually decrease until 2022, when it will go away completely for residential installations.  AEC does not provide any type of rebate for the installation of solar panels.      

Solar systems produce power indefinitely. The lifespan of a typical solar system is around 25 to 30 years. After that, panels will still generate electricity, but at a much reduced rate. Solar inverters usually last around 10 to 12 years; they are typically replaced at least once over the lifespan of the system.

I can generate so much solar power that not only will I be able to eliminate my electric bill, but I’ll be able to sell excess electricity back to AEC/TVA—and actually make money! First of all, AEC does not purchase excess generation. TVA’s Dispersed Power Production program buys back solar generation (at a rate of 2.5 cents per kWh), but this is only feasible for extremely large-scale installations. Most AEC members who generate electricity from solar panels installed on their property do so “behind the meter.” This means that the power produced is tied directly into your home’s electrical panel, thereby reducing your energy consumption by the amount your solar system generates. You don’t receive a “credit” on your electric bill and you will not be able to produce enough generation to eliminate it. Instead, your bill will be lower—by a modest amount—than it would have been, otherwise.

AEC members can proceed with installing solar capacity and reap the benefits of generation without ever contacting the Co-op. Actually, there are quite a few steps that must be completed prior to energizing your system. You’ll need to complete and sign an application for interconnection and pay a non-refundable $250 application fee. AEC will provide you with instructions on what we require—including an accessible and lockable disconnect switch. You’ll sign the interconnection agreement and we’ll issue an approval for construction. When you’re ready to begin generating electricity, you’ll provide us with proof of insurance and documentation from the Tennessee State Electrical Inspector. After a final AEC inspection, you’re good to generate!

If I don’t have a great location for solar panels or if I rent instead of own my home, I’m just out of luck. This is far from the case! You can support clean, renewable energy by participating in AEC’s Community Solar program. You purchase “blocks” of solar generation in exchange for monthly credits on your electric bill—all without having to install or maintain equipment. For more information about this option, contact Kim McGhee at x1172.

Links to other solar information from AEC

Renewable Energy Programs


AEC Interconnection Policy

AEC Application for Interconnection

AEC Interconnection Agreement Tier 1

DPP Terms and Conditions

DPP Interconnection R2

Interconnection Attachment Tier 5

Co-op Community Solar

Community Solar – Fact sheet

How does Subscription work? Program information

AEC Subscription Solar Agreement

How does Select Solar work - Block Option

Understanding Renewable Energy Credits – Information

2015 TVA  Emissions CO2 Calculator

Co-op Community Solar Facebook Page

Community Solar Facility's Generation in Real Time!