Tennessee Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Tennessee solar panels:
- How to begin the process of converting to solar in TN
- How much electricity a Tennessee solar power system typically produces
- How to save money when converting to clean energy in TN
How to Get Solar Panels in Tennessee
When you’re ready to install a solar energy system in TN, you’ll first need to connect with a local installation company. A sales rep will review your energy needs and will usually need to inspect your roof for sun exposure and age before the company designs a solar project suited to your home.
Once you approve the design, your rep will discuss financing options with you. After choosing a cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA), permits for the installation will be pulled and your system will be installed and activated.
Installing photovoltaic (PV) equipment in TN is expensive, but most residents find that it’s well worth the investment. After the typical system in the area pays for itself, it saves around an additional $20,000 on utility bills.
Shine Solar, LLC
What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Tennessee?
The average cost of solar equipment in TN is $2.49 per watt — the third lowest per-watt cost among every state in the nation.
The typical energy usage in TN requires around a 12 kilowatt (kW) system, which is quite large. The average total cost for a system this size in The Volunteer State is around $21,000 after the Residential Clean Energy Credit — formerly known as the investment tax credit or ITC — is taken.
This is expensive, but remember that panels usually pay for themselves and then go on to save you additional money. In TN, your solar PV system should pay itself off within 13 years. This panel payback period is just above average in the U.S.
For more information on the cost of solar equipment in your area, you can check out our Tennessee cost guide for solar systems.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Tennessee
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) notes that TN ranks 28th in the country for solar adoption.1 While it’s not the most popular state for converting to solar, the local solar industry is still booming. Most of the major panel manufacturers serve TN residents.
Below are some of the most prevalent solar panel brands installed in Tennessee:
- Maxeon (formerly SunPower)
- Canadian Solar
- Trina Solar
- Mission Solar
- LG (this brand is soon to stop making and selling solar panels)
Tennessee homeowners experience plenty of sunlight and are insulated from most extreme weather events, so residents need neither the most efficient panels nor the brands with the lengthiest warranty coverage. However, opting for high-quality panels is typically still wise.
Is Tennessee a Good State for Solar Panels?
Tennessee is a great place to go solar, and most residents find that converting to renewable energy is an excellent financial decision. Below, we’ll discuss some of the factors that make solar a popular and lucrative option in TN.
- Plenty of sunlight: One of the primary factors influencing solar viability in an area is the amount of sunlight it gets. Areas with more sun have greater opportunity to produce solar electricity. That means panels are more valuable, as heavy energy production will save you more money on utility bills over time. Tennessee residents enjoy around 207 days of sunshine per year, which is plenty to offset electric bills.2
- Tennessee solar incentives: TN might not be the most popular state for solar conversion, but it does provide several highly beneficial perks to incentivize residents toward renewable energy. We’ll discuss the specific incentives in a later section.
- High energy consumption: Although TN residents enjoy relatively low electricity rates, they use more energy than residents of nearly any other state. The average monthly consumption in TN is 1,168 kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is second only to consumption in Louisiana.3 Areas with high energy needs like Tennessee see more value from solar equipment because utility bills are higher, which means greater savings opportunities.
- Low equipment cost: Finally, solar equipment in TN averages around $2.49 per watt. This makes TN the sixth most affordable state (by watt) to install solar. Not only is solar more valuable because of high energy consumption, but it’s also more affordable assuming you’re comparing across the same system size — for example a 5 kW system in TN will cost less than a 5 kW system in most other states. You get far more bang for your buck going solar in TN than you would in most other states.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Tennessee?
Energy production varies quite a lot between different solar system installations, and generation rates also vary from day to day on the same system. How much energy production you can expect from your system depends on a number of factors, as described below:
- The intensity of the sun hitting your panels: More intense sunlight equates to higher production rates. This is why homes in the Southern U.S. and those with south-facing roofs see the highest rates in the country.4 Your solar installer will take the location and roof orientation of your home into account when sizing your system to your home.
- The amount of sun hitting your panels: Your panels will only produce solar electricity when the sun is shining on them. That means shading on your roof — especially in the peak sunlight hours of the early afternoon — can reduce your rate of solar energy generation. If your home has trees, buildings or utility lines nearby, shading is an important consideration when estimating production rates.
- The equipment brand you have installed: Different solar panel brands come with varying levels of efficiency. The efficiency rating of a panel tells you the percentage of the sun’s energy hitting the panel that can be utilized to generate electricity. The current leader in panel efficiency — Maxeon — boasts a 22.7% efficiency rating. Any other panel has lower efficiency and will generate less electricity.
- How many panels you have on your home: While efficiency ratings will tell you the production rate of each panel, the size of your system will dictate total production. Larger systems with more panels will take up more square footage and be exposed to more sunlight. This means the bigger your system, the more power you’ll produce.
- The weather: Finally, the weather can affect your production rates on a day-to-day basis. Cloud coverage can drop efficiency by 10% to 90%, so local weather expectations are important to think about when estimating monthly generation.
These factors make estimating your panels’ production levels a real challenge. You can use the averages in the chart below to get an idea of the system size you need to cover your annual energy consumption.
|Solar Power System Size||Expected Daily Energy Produced||Expected Monthly Energy Produced||Expected Annual Energy Produced|
|9 kW||30 kWh||900 kWh||10,800 kWh|
|10 kW||33.3 kWh||1,000 kWh||12,000 kWh|
|11 kW||36.6 kWh||1,100 kWh||13,200 kWh|
|12 kW||40 kWh||1,200 kWh||14,400 kWh|
|13 kW||43.3 kWh||1,300 kWh||15,600 kWh|
|14 kW||46.6 kWh||1,400 kWh||16,800 kWh|
|15 kW||50 kWh||1,500 kWh||18,000 kWh|
For a more personalized estimate, you can use our solar calculator to see how much a rooftop solar system on your property would cost.
Solar Panel Policy History in Tennessee
According to the SEIA, Tennessee trails many other states in terms of solar adoption. This is likely due, at least in part, to a lack of pro-solar laws.
While many other states adopted solar-friendly policies in the 1970s, TN’s first piece of energy efficiency legislation didn’t happen until 2009. The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) was adopted for both residential and commercial buildings, mandating the use of energy-efficient building practices.
A few years later, in 2013, the Office of Energy Programs (OEP) in TN initiated the State Energy Office (SEO) and State Facility Utility Management Section (SFUM) to promote green energy adoption. Unfortunately, TN didn’t have a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal to keep utility companies and residents committed to green energy efforts, so these new agencies didn’t have as big an impact as they could have had with an RPS goal.
Although TN as a whole has not mandated net metering, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) did begin offering it in 2017. Net metering lets you generate more energy than you use and then sell the excess back to your power company for credits on future bills.
The TVA offered energy credits at retail value for members of its capped Green Power Providers plan. All other customers were credited at the wholesale rate, which isn’t nearly as beneficial.
Finally, the TVA began offering some rebates and perks for commercial and residential solar customers. These include the EnergyRight program and the e-Score program.
Without an RPS goal, it’s unclear whether or not the Tennessee solar benefits will improve or become less beneficial over time. At this time, the TVA has the influence and customer base to be the spearhead for available perks.
What Are The Solar Panel Incentives in Tennessee?
Since the pro-solar legislation in TN has been less than ideal, it should come as no surprise that the state only has a handful of benefit programs available. However, these benefits are enough to convince many customers to go solar each year. These perks include:
- Residential Clean Energy Credit: The federal government offers this tax credit to all TN homeowners. This policy provides for 30% of your total system cost to be credited to your income tax burden for the year your solar panel system is installed. In Tennessee, the credit averages out to just under $9,000.
- Green energy property tax assessment: Many states offer a property tax exemption for solar equipment, which prevents your taxes from going up as a result of the home value boost you get from your PV equipment. This assessment limits the added value to 12.5% of your home solar system, which means your taxes will increase, but not as much as they otherwise would. This is typically more beneficial in higher-cost areas like Memphis and Nashville.
- Sales tax credit for clean energy technology: This is a sales tax exemption for solar equipment that reduces the up-front cost of converting to solar. Unfortunately, it’s only available for commercial customers.
- Net metering: This is a billing policy that lets you accumulate credits for overproduction that can be used to reduce future bills. Net metering is not mandated for all utility companies in TN. However, the TVA does offer net metering through the Dispersed Power Production program.
- Knoxville Utilities Board rebate program: Customers of the Knoxville Utilities Board can get up to a $400 rebate for installing an electric vehicle (EV) charger.
For more information on these perks or to see if there are additional local rebate programs available to you, check out our Tennessee solar incentives guide.
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.5
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.
If you need additional recommendations or options outside of these cities, you can check out our guide to the best solar installers throughout TN.