Go Solar

Sustainability Director

Brian Blackmon
bblackmon@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-4430

400 Main St., Room 598
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Individuals and businesses have plenty of reasons to switch to solar energy:

• Avoid Increasing Electricity Rates. Switching to solar power means you can generate your own power for free for decades, protecting you from unpredictable changes in energy prices.
• Protect the Environment. Most grid electricity is generated by burning coal, which emits pollutants and greenhouse gases that have serious consequences for the environment and climate. Solar electricity comes from a clean and renewable source (the sun) and doesn’t directly emit greenhouse gases or create air pollution.
• Keep Yourself Safe. Solar technologies can be particularly handy in weather events or emergency situations, keeping critical equipment working even if the grid loses power.
• Increase Property Value. Installing solar technologies makes your home more desirable by reducing energy costs and increasing home equity. In fact, a 2019 study shows that homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more on average.
• Support Local Economy. Installing solar supports local businesses and decreases reliance on imported fossil fuels.


Types of Solar

There are several ways to leverage solar energy in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, including:

Solar PVSolar Photovoltaic (PV)
Solar cells, also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, directly convert energy from sunlight into usable electricity. Solar PV cells are grouped into panels and installed on individual properties (such as rooftop arrays) or as community solar arrays. Today, the United States has over 2 million solar PV installations with a total generation capacity of over 70 gigawatts – enough to power 12 million homes.
Solar ThermalSolar Thermal
Solar thermal collectors (which can look like solar PV panels) gather solar energy and convert it into usable energy to heat air or water, which is then distributed throughout the building.
Passive Solar DesignPassive Solar Design
Passive solar is a design practice that uses construction to maximize natural sunlight for heating and lighting. Strategically placing windows and shades, using certain building materials, and planting deciduous trees can all affect heat and light inside a building and keep your building comfortable all year. Learn more at DOE’s Passive Solar Home Design webpage.
Solar TubeSolar Lighting
Solar lighting, also called daylighting, is a design practice that uses windows, skylights, solar tubes, and reflective materials to passively channel natural sunlight for internal lighting.

Learn more about different solar technologies at the Solar Energy Industries Association website or DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Office.


Five Steps To Go Solar

1: Make Your Building Energy-Efficient
It doesn’t make sense to pay to put solar on a building that wastes energy. For instance, if your building has weak insulation or gaps around doors and windows, energy is escaping every day! If you want to save energy and money, start by improving the efficiency of your building. In fact, a 2019 study shows that basic energy-efficiency retrofit of a typical home can reduce energy use 10% and return up to 18.5% on investment annually. Learn more about building energy efficiency at the DOE ENERGY STAR website.

2: Consider Available Technologies
Solar energy can be used for many purposes, like generating electricity, powering mechanical devices, providing natural light, supplying heating, or even cooling.  Solar photovoltaic panels, solar thermal, solar lighting, and passive solar can reduce energy use in energy use in almost any building, but the best choice for you will depend on factors such as sun exposure, facility layout, budget, and occupant preferences. For example, a sunny, south-facing roof is ideal for solar PV or hot water panels, while a shaded roof is better suited for solar tubes.

3: Assess Site Solar Potential
Most solar projects need a sizeable area with maximum sun exposure throughout the day and year. You can use a wide range of tools to evaluate the solar potential of your building. Does a large part of your roof face south? Are there trees, buildings, or other objects that cause a lot of shading? Visit the DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Office for tools to evaluate rooftop solar potential.

4: Hire a Certified Solar Installer
Once you’ve identified a promising project, contract a solar installer certified through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) to do a professional study and develop a project plan. Renewable energy systems installed by NABCEP-certified installers have fewer problems at the time of inspection than those installed by non-certified installers.

5: Finance Your Project
Although prices have decreased dramatically in recent years, solar projects can still be expensive. To find if there are any current programs or financial incentives to reduce the cost of your project, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Note: Most solar array installations require a building permit and an electrical permit. Be sure to work with the City’s Division of Plans Review & Inspections to ensure your  project meets requirements!


Solar PV Installations and Price
Solar PV Installations and Cost
Source: Solar Energy Industries Association, 9/20/21