Your Guide to Solar Panels in Tennessee: 7 Steps to Solar Panels in Tennessee

Converting to solar is a great opportunity for most residents in Tennessee. On average, panels will pay for themselves in the area in just 13 years and save nearly $20,000 on utility bills after that timeframe.

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Tennessee doesn’t rank terribly high in terms of the rate of solar adoption according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).1 However, most Tennesseans find that solar conversion is worth it, despite the upfront costs being quite high. The average solar system in TN costs around $29,880 or $20,916 after some of the local solar incentives and tax credits are considered. While making the switch to renewable energy is expensive, the panels usually end up being a good financial decision.

In this guide, we’ll be walking through the entire conversion process from start to finish and explaining what you can expect along the way. You can use the links below to jump to a specific part of the process if you need to.

Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO)

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy

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Best National Provider

Nationwide Service

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  • Most efficient panels on the market
  • National coverage
  • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
  • Great warranty coverage


  • Expensive
  • Customer service varies by local dealer
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ADT Solar

Best Warranty Coverage

Regional Service

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  • Industry-leading warranty coverage
  • Expansive service area


  • Some reported communication issues
  • No leases or PPAs
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Shine Solar, LLC

Outstanding Regional Installer

Regional Service

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Average cost


  • Many financing options
  • Great warranty coverage
  • Offers a panel buy-back option
  • Outstanding workmanship


  • Relatively young company
  • Limited brands of solar equipment available

Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels in Tennessee

solar panels Tennessee

Since solar adoption is so expensive in Tennessee — more than most U.S. residents will pay on average — it’s important that you research how well-suited your property is to solar power.

Research If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit For You in Tennessee

You want to be sure that solar is going to benefit you in the long run, especially since you’ll likely be spending over $20,000 on your system, even after federal and state incentives and rebates.

First, we recommend calculating how many panels you’ll need to offset your monthly energy bills. You can use our solar calculator to get an accurate estimate of the system size necessary.

This is a good first step because it can indicate if there are factors that will make solar less viable for your home. Things like tree coverage, the direction your roof faces and more can affect how well solar panels will work for you. The average Tennessee home needs a 12 kilowatts (kW) system to power their home, which comes out to at least 30 solar panels, depending on how powerful they are.

If your system is expected to be much larger, your costs will be above average, and there’s a chance that going solar will be less valuable overall. Large systems aren’t inherently less valuable, but if the size is making up for some other factor, then going solar may not be as beneficial.

We also recommend considering the weather in your area since panels will generate less energy in cloudy conditions. Areas with more intense sunlight and more sunny days annually are better for solar adoption. Tennessee as a whole sees around 207 sunny days per year, which is just above average and plenty for most Tennessee residents to benefit massively from solar.2

Consider Net Metering

One of the most important factors to consider is your access to net metering, also called net energy metering (NEM). NEM is a policy that credits you for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of overproduction you send to the grid. Your credits get applied to future bills, effectively reducing your electricity rates or eliminating your energy bills altogether.

Net metering is not mandated by the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission, so not all Tennessee solar customers in the state will have access. Since NEM is so critical for maximizing savings, you’ll want to understand the policy from your utility company before deciding to convert.

A good portion of Tennesseeans will be serviced by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Unfortunately, TVA doesn’t offer net energy metering, although it does offer its Green Power Providers Program, which is similar to NEM. This program offers an avoided-cost rate for energy credits, which is not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. As of this writing, though, the program is full and not accepting new applications.3

If you have NEM available to you, your panels are going to end up being more valuable overall and will likely yield greater savings over time.

The table below includes some statistics regarding solar panel costs and estimated savings to help illustrate how beneficial PV equipment is in your area as compared to the rest of the country.

Tennessee State Average United States National Average
Solar Power System Size Required 12 kW 9 kW
Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment $2.49 $2.66
Average Total System Cost Before Federal Solar Income Tax Credit $29,880 $23,940
Average Federal Solar Tax Credit Value $8,964 $7,182
Average Total System Cost After Federal Credit $20,916 $16,758
Average Panel Payback Period 13 years 12 years
Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar $19,688 $22,379

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

Once you’ve determined that solar is going to be a good investment for your home, we recommend you start looking into how you’re going to pay for your panels. The average solar energy system in your area costs around $29,880 before any Tennessee solar incentives or rebate programs, so a payment plan or financing for your equipment might be necessary.

If you haven’t used our solar calculator to figure out what system size is right for your home, we recommend you do that now. You can multiply your estimated system size in watts by the average cost per watt in Tennessee — which is $2.49 — to get your estimated total system price.

Given the size of most solar arrays in the state, this number might seem prohibitively expensive. However, it’s important to remember that your system is expected to pay for itself over time and provide financial upside in the long run, so it’s still likely a solid investment. Plus, there are solar incentives and rebates you may be eligible to receive that can lower the cost of your solar panels.

You can choose from four options regarding how you’ll pay for your system. We’ll explain each of these briefly below.

  • Cash purchase: A cash purchase is the simplest option because you pay upfront for your system, own your panels immediately and your equipment starts to pay for itself right away. Paying in cash comes with the highest initial cost, but not paying a rental fee or interest means the lowest overall cost and the highest energy savings.
  • Solar loan: A solar loan is more accessible for most people because it requires a much smaller down payment, sometimes none at all. You’ll end up paying interest on your loan, though, which increases the long-term system total and drops your savings down a little.
  • Solar lease: This option lets you rent your equipment and use the energy it generates to save on your monthly electric bill. Leases yield lower savings overall than cash and loans, as they never lead to panel ownership. Additionally, you cannot take the federal investment tax credit (ITC) with a lease.
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA): In a PPA, you get panels installed at no cost, and you agree to buy the power they generate. You’re still expected to save because the cost per kWh should be lower than what your electric company charges, but this option has the least impressive savings. These agreements also prevent you from taking the federal tax credit.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

tennessee solar panels

At this point, you can start looking for a company to handle the installation for you. This can be a time-consuming process, but we’ll explain what to look for in an installer to help expedite this step a little.

Picking a Solar Installer

Choosing a panel installation company for your solar project can be overwhelming in any area, but with over 50 installers to choose from, Tennesseeans can find this step to be particularly challenging.

We recommend looking for the below qualities when deciding on a company to hire:

  • The installer should have at least five years of experience, and a decade or more is preferred.
  • The company should have technicians certified by NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners).
  • The company should carry top-tier equipment brands, have reasonable pricing and accept your preferred payment method.
  • The installer should offer good warranty protection.
  • The company should have positive customer reviews and a high rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Below are some of the Tennessee solar companies we generally recommend, as they meet the above criteria:

  • Shine Solar, LLC — Regional Installer
  • Lightwave Solar — Local Installer
  • SunPower — National Installer
  • ADT Solar — National Installer
  • Greene Tech Renewable Energy — Local Installer
  • GES Solar — Regional Installer

You can read more about these companies and why we recommend them in our guide to choosing a solar provider in TN.

What to Expect After Requesting a Quote

Shortly after you provide your contact information to a solar company, a sales representative should contact you. They will ask for a copy of your most recent energy bill, and they will discuss the basics of solar equipment installation. They should also schedule an in-person visit to assess your roof and take measurements.

Once that’s completed, the design team will come up with a system that fits on your roof and meets your energy demands. Your sales rep will connect with you again to go over the solar proposal, which includes information about your system, the installation process and more.

Your formal solar proposal should include all of the below information:

  • The cost of solar panels before and after the federal solar tax credit.
  • The size of your system in kW and how much energy it’s expected to generate.
  • Your estimated panel payback period and expected lifetime savings.
  • Information for how and where all equipment will be installed.
  • Information about your warranty coverage.
  • An estimated installation timeline.
  • Any permit or inspection fees to be paid (more on this later).

We strongly recommend shopping around a bit and getting two to three solar proposals at a minimum. This will allow you to have quotes to compare, and some installers may discount their services to match competitors if you have multiple estimates.

Consider Purchasing Solar Accessories

When you’re in the quoting phase, it’s a good idea to think about any add-on products you might want to be installed. All solar arrays include panels and inverters/microinverters, but the below options are also popular in your area.

  • Solar batteries: Solar batteries like the Tesla Powerwall provide effective net metering, letting solar customers take full advantage of most — if not all — of the power they generate. Batteries are popular in the Volunteer State primarily because NEM is not mandated by the PUC.
  • Solar carports: Solar carports are outbuildings that give you additional space to install PV panels. These are popular in your area because of the above-average system size, which can prove to be too large to fit on your roof.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades: Tennesseeans use more energy per month than homeowners in any other state, except Louisiana.4 As such, energy efficiency upgrades — which are sometimes offered as add-ons by solar companies — are popular in the area. Things like solar water heaters, new windows and doors and upgraded insulation can help minimize energy bills alongside your home solar equipment.
  • Electric vehicle (EV) chargers: Tennessee is a leading manufacturer of EVs, and although the state has a relatively slow adoption rate for the technology, that’s expected to change in the future.5 As more residents make the switch to electric, the demand for at-home chargers is also expected to increase.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in Tennessee

Once you’ve gotten your proposals for rooftop solar systems from a few companies, you can choose one and sign the contract to get the installation process moving forward. We’ll explain what to look for in your contract in the following sections to make sure you get favorable terms.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in Tennessee?

One of the first things we recommend you look for in your contract is the warranty coverage. Solar warranties come in three main varieties, which we’ll explain below.

  • Equipment warranties: Equipment warranties are provided by your panel manufacturer and cover things like defects in the equipment. These last for 25 years on average.
  • Efficiency warranties: Efficiency warranties guarantee that your panels will remain a certain fraction of their initial efficiency for the warranty term. Efficiency warranties usually last for 20 years and guarantee 80% of the original panel efficiency after that time.
  • Workmanship warranties: Workmanship warranties are offered by your installer and cover issues related to the labor. These last for 10 years, on average. Some installers go above and beyond by including roof leak coverage, which is helpful in Tennessee due to the above-average rainfall.6

When Can I Expect Solar Service to Go Live?

It takes an average of three to five months from the day you sign your solar contract to the day your panels are commissioned and start generating power for your home. There are some things that can delay this process a bit, including the following:

  • Your installer is backed up with other projects.
  • Your building department causes delays with permit issuance or inspection scheduling.
  • Your utility provider is backed up with interconnection inspections.
  • Any equipment being back-ordered; this is typically only an issue with high-demand products like Tesla Powerwalls.

Solar Panel Permits in Tennessee

While the State of Tennessee doesn’t mandate permits for solar projects, each municipality requires them. That means you’ll need to wait for building permits or electrical permits before you can proceed with your installation.

In all cases, your installer will file for the permits for you, so you won’t be responsible for any paperwork. However, you’ll have to pay the permit fees, which should be detailed in your solar proposal. The fee and permitting process will vary depending on where you live.

For example, Nashville charges a minimum of $75 for solar permits, but your fee could be higher depending on the equipment being installed.7 Permits in Memphis and the rest of Shelby County cost $160 based on the typical installation cost of solar arrays in the state.8 The City of Knoxville charges $45 for solar permits.9

In most cases, your solar permit fees will fall between $40 and $200. You shouldn’t be charged for the related inspections, although you might get hit with re-inspection fees if you miss your initial scheduled appointment.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

Another thing your installer should file an application for is interconnection, which is the policy that allows your solar panel system to be connected to the electric grid. Interconnection is required to access NEM, so it’s an important step for your installation company.

All electric companies have different application processes. Currently, the TVA applications are no longer being accepted for the Green Power Providers Program.10 Nashville Electric Service (NES) has a four-page application and doesn’t require any application fee.11 Middle Tennessee Electric has an even shorter application, which is also free to submit.12

In any case, the application should be submitted by your installer, so you won’t be responsible for anything during this step in the process.

We should also mention that applying for interconnection will make your full installation process take a bit longer, as you might have to wait for weeks for the final inspection from your provider. However, since interconnection is required to get connected to the grid and to access NEM, it’s well worth the wait.

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day in Tennessee

Once everything is in order with permits, your installer will schedule your installation. On that morning, the team will show up, prepare your property and begin installing the panels.

Most solar customers wonder, “do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” The answer is yes. Your installers will need to access your home to make the connection to your electric meter, and they may need access to your attic or other interior spaces as well. You should plan on having at least one adult home all day during the installation.

On average, solar installations take between 5 and 10 hours in Tennessee, given the above-average system size in the area. Your project could take a bit longer if your installer schedules the power company inspection on the same day. Solar inspections take about a half hour, so that can add to your total installation timeline.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in Tennessee


After the installation is completed, your installer will schedule the final inspection with your local building department. This inspection is necessary to close out the permits, which will help prevent potential violations and will avoid any issues with open permits if you ever sell your home.

With panel-only systems, some building inspectors will complete a quick drive-by inspection, for which you won’t need to be home. If your inspector needs interior access to look at the connection or add-on products, your installer should coordinate the inspection for you. You’ll just need to be home for it, or you risk having to pay a re-inspection fee.

After the inspection is completed, you can use solar monitoring software — if it’s included with your panels — to continue to make sure your panels are working properly. Companies like SunPower and Tesla offer solar monitoring mobile apps for this purpose, which are quite convenient.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in Tennessee

The last official step in the process before your panels can be activated is getting permission to operate (PTO) from your utility provider. This won’t be granted without an inspection to ensure your system is connected safely. There is usually no fee for this inspection, but your installer should include it in your proposal if there is one.

At this point, your installer can activate your panels and show you how to disconnect them in case of an emergency. You can also ask about solar monitoring software if the technician hasn’t already shown you how to set it up.

The only additional information you need is the emergency contact number for your utility company. In the case of an electrical fire or some other emergency, you should call 911 and then your electric company to report the problem. We’ll include emergency contact numbers for some of the larger providers in your area.

  • Tennessee Valley Authority: 1-855-476-2489
  • Nashville Electric Service: 1-615-234-0000
  • Middle Tennessee Electric: 1-877-777-9020

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy in Tennessee

Finally, the hard work is done. Now that your panels are generating power for your home, you can watch your energy savings pile up and rest assured that you’ve done your part to push the green energy movement forward. Your carbon footprint and emissions will have been reduced, and you’ll be contributing less to pollution.

We should also mention that installing PV panels on your home will yield the highest savings if you use them to offset your own energy bills. However, they also bump up your home value, so you should see some kind of return on investment (ROI) even if you sell your home after converting.

Find a Local Installer in Tennessee

Choosing a solar provider is a big decision, and with over 40 local companies to pick from, deciding can require a lot of effort and research.13

Although picking the best one for your purposes is time-consuming, you should take your time. The company you pick will determine your solar power system cost, the panel brands and efficiency ratings available to you, the warranty coverage you get for the equipment, production and workmanship and more.

Below, we’ll include some links to reviews of the top solar companies in different cities throughout TN to help get you started.

Street view of downtown Bristol, TN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Companies in Bristol

Sun rising over downtown Kingsport in TN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Companies in Kingsport

Aerial view of Johnson City in TN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Companies in Johnson City

Town Hall located in Unicoi, TN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Companies in Unicoi

Patterson Hotel located near Bloomingdale in TN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Companies in Bloomingdale

If you need additional recommendations or options outside of these cities, you can check out our guide to the best solar installers throughout TN.

FAQ: Solar Panels in Tennessee

In the sections below, we’ll include answers to some of the questions we get asked frequently about the process of going solar in Tennessee.

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Article author
Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.
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Expert reviewer
Kristina Zagame is a journalist, editor and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.

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  • 5.0
    • Most efficient panels on the market
    • National coverage
    • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
    • Great warranty coverage
    • Expensive
    • Customer service varies by local dealer
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    25-year all-inclusive warranty

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