City Seeking Contractor for Solar Photovoltaic Array

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email

City Seeking Contractor for Solar Photovoltaic Array

Posted: 02/05/2010
The City of Knoxville is seeking a contractor to design, install, and finance a large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) array, ideally on the roof of the Knoxville Convention Center.

The City allocated $250,000 of Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant funding towards this project and is seeking a firm that can leverage those funds by taking advantage of tax credits and other financial incentives, so that the solar array can be much larger than one directly financed by the City.

A Request for Qualifications of interested firms was issued today. Responses are due on March 5 and the City anticipates selecting the most qualified contractor on March 19. The solar installation should be completed and generating electricity by 2012.

The Convention Center solar project is only one element of the City's overall plan to use the $2 million EECBG grant to encourage the development of clean energy sources here in Knoxville.

Although the exact size of the solar PV system will be determined by the financing structure proposed by the selected firm, the City hopes to achieve a system capacity of about 100 kW. A system this size would be comprised of over 500 solar panels and could generate enough electricity annually to power roughly 15 average American households for a year.

The system will participate in TVA's Generation Partners Program, which means that all the clean energy it produces will feed directly into the electrical grid.

Knoxville still has to obtain the necessary environmental approvals to place the array of solar panels on the Convention Center. If it cannot obtain those, the city would look to install the system on another large publicly-owned structure.

"The intent of this project is to catalyze local solar market growth through successful execution of a third party financing model" says Susanna Bass, the City's Sustainability Program Manager. "These grant funds provide an opportunity for the City to host this project, providing both a location and seed funds for a financing plan." 

The innovative financing model sought for this project means that the City can expect significant leverage of this grant funding. Assuming the total cost for designing and installing a 100 kW system is $1 million dollars, the City will only contribute $250,000, and the winning company will be responsible for the remaining $750,000. Tax credits, depreciation benefits, and the value of produced electricity - which TVA will purchase for $0.12 above the electricity rate - can help that company re-coup their investment.

Beyond the obvious positive environmental impacts of deploying clean energy systems, providing a successful example of how third party financing of renewable energy can work in the Tennessee Valley will compliment the goals of Knoxville's Solar America Cities Program.

"Third-Party Financing has helped solar grow tremendously in other parts of the country. By demonstrating a workable model, we can help bring that momentum to this area," Bass said.

The project is being funded with part of a $2 million Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant the city received last year from the U.S. Department of Energy. The EECBG grant is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds the City received, and is commonly referred to as federal stimulus money.