Taking charge of energy bills through solar power

SUCCESS STORY: The Catering Companies & Bell Mill Mansion

Success Story: The Catering Companies & Bell Mill Mansion
Tara Plumlee, owns several well-known event sites, including The Mill of Chattanooga, and more recently, Bell Mill Mansion.

Solar farm at event hall marries lower energy bills and environmental stewardship

Tara Plumlee grew up in the food industry – helping at her father’s barbecue restaurant from the age of 13. After trying her hand at owning and operating a restaurant, she started The Catering Companies in Chattanooga to give her a more flexible schedule as a new mom.

The beginning of a bright future

When clients asked where they should host the events she was catering, Tara saw an opportunity. Her catering company quickly grew to include multiple event venues.

She now owns several well-known event sites, including The Mill of Chattanooga, and more recently, Bell Mill Mansion.

Standing at over 21,000 square feet on 32 acres, Bell Mill Mansion includes 15 bedrooms, a spa, an outdoor tennis court, a pool, and many more luxurious amenities that would make any visitor’s stay worthwhile.  Just as they would for any property of this magnitude, the electric bills started to add up.

“In comparison to my other properties, Bell Mill was a whole different animal,” says Tara. “The energy bills were extravagant!”

Her father, who had once used solar panels to power his rural cabin in Colorado, suggested she look into installing a small solar farm in one of the Mansion’s large back fields. “My dad’s two cents on solar power ended up being worth a couple thousand dollars,” says Tara.

Taking charge of energy bills through solar power

Using a Pathway Lending Energy Efficiency Loan, Tara worked with Tennessee Solar Solutions to install solar panels to alleviate electricity expenditures for the Bell Mill property. They installed a 100kW solar system that’s expected to produce 139,700 kwh annually, which will equate to $15,902 in revenue.

“From a business standpoint, the tax write-offs are amazing,” says Tara. “Of course I have the lingering benefit of the lowered bills, plus it’s environmentally friendly. As a business owner you want to make the right decision for your company, but you’re also doing something good for the Earth.”

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Solar Solutions Continues to SHINE as a TOP Solar Contractor in North America

Solar Power World’s Top Solar Contractors list is the most recognized annual listing of the top U.S. solar contractors working in the utility, commercial and residential markets.

The solar industry in the US employs right around 374,000 Americans, which is double the combined workforce of coal, oil, and gas. With there being over 6,100 different solar contractors throughout the US competing to be on the list, and we not only made the top 500, but achieved the over all ranking of #198* and #82 commercial solar install). Since the Top 500 list was started in 2012, Tennessee Solar Solutions has placed FOUR consecutive years- 2015, 2016,2017,and 2018.

“We are so proud of the work our team has done for the last 12yrs. Solar energy is not only the most abundant resource for energy usage, but everyone should have access to harness this FREE energy,” said Anthony Roden, Founder + President. “This recognition is as honor and reflective of a hard-working team that is meeting the demand of solar energy in a state that currently doesn’t favor our industry. #solarmeansbusiness and when you are looking at your bottom line for a business or your pocketbook, it makes sense to own your power instead of renting it.”

If solar is something you’re considering adding to your property, there are a ton of benefits financially as well as environmentally. Financially, there is the potential to completely eradicate your electric bill, as well as gain federal tax credit. You could even sell back any power you produce.

The first step in going solar is to contact us- you can go to our website tennesseesolarsolutions.com  or give us a call at (423)535-9350.

2018 Top Solar Contractors


Rank #198

Total Kilowatts Installed Since Founded:13,935 Company Founded2007
Total Kilowatts Installed 20163,093.0 LocationChattanooga, TN
Employees31 Web Sitetennesseesolarsolutions.com
Primary MarketCommercial Primary ServiceEPC

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The 2018 Top Solar Contractors list

*The list details the headquarters location of a company, employees, its primary market (utility, commercial, residential) and its primary service (EPC, developer, rooftop contractor, installation subcontractor, electrical subcontractor, manufacturer installer). Companies choose their primary market and primary service. That does not mean they only work in these areas. They could work across all markets and all services, and their listed kilowatts reflect their cumulative installation numbers from the last year in all markets, services and states. Ranks are determined by the number of kilowatts (DC) a company was involved with installing in 2017 in the United States only. If two companies reported the same 2017 numbers, they were sorted by total kilowatts installed.

72 Million New Homes Will Run On Solar Power By 2030

72 Million New Homes Will Run On Solar Power By 2030


As climate change continues to challenge the way we live and forces us to think about how our lifestyles impact the planet, more people are turning to renewable energy. A new report released from analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance looks at the importance of decentralized energy grids in a growing, modern world. It estimates 72 million new homes will be solar-powered by 2030 as access to cheap, sustainable sources of energy continues to expand . 

This is something that’s not only great for those seeking to transition their current traditional energy sources, but for those in developing or rural communities with limited or zero access to electricity.

The release of the report coincides with UN delegates meeting this week in New York to look at the progress made towards the UN’s sustainable development goals. It highlights 2018’s focus on ensuring access to affordable and reliable energy, safe and resilient cities, and water.

The report argues that, “decentralized systems, including those powered by renewables, could and should close the gap in an environmentally sustainable way. In fact, they estimate that the total industry investment required to achieve this is approximately $372 billion dollars less than recent assessments by the the International Energy Agency.”

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Summer Solstice is the best day for a Solar Solution

by Lucy Woodrow

The Summer Solstice of 2018 is one of the longest days in the history of the Earth. “Why though?” One may ask. Well, this is due to tidal friction slowing down the rotation of the Earth gradually over time. The oceans’ movements through tides moving and fluctuating sometimes works against the spin of the Earth. This causes the Earth, as previously stated, to begin to slow. Since it is the longest day of the year, there are 17 hours of sunlight falling onto the Northern Hemisphere, which means that the sun is providing 2,448,000,000,000,000,000 watts of energy on the solstice.

Even though there is a tremendous amount of energy going towards the earth, it is not being harnessed like it could. Should one have solar panels on their home or business or a solar field, they could harness that energy and use it to power so many different things. While the solstice does indeed provide the earliest sunrise of the year, it does not mean that it also provides the latest sunset, even though it is the longest day of the year. The word “solstice” is derived from the latin words “sol” (meaning sun) and “sisters” (meaning to make stand). This is because when the sun reaches its peak in the sky, it seems to stand still in the sky for a while before it continues on to the westward horizon.

Just because the summer solstice means the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, does not mean it’s the same for the Southern. In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is the shortest day of the year and signifies the beginning of winter as opposed to beginning the summer.







May the 4th Be With You!

  1. How does the movie or television show use solar power?
  2. How cost-effective is the use of solar power?
  3. How realistic is the use of solar now or in the future?


The Empire and First Order are villainous regimes in Star Wars that are trying to annihilate the rebels that oppose them and take complete control of the galaxy. They have a strange obsession with destroying planets but they get a bad rap. Their TIE fighter ships are powered by solar (yes, this is verified by Star Wars cannon).

TIE fighter solar panels

They have solar panels on both sides of their wings–even Darth Vader’s ship features this design.

1) How does the movie use solar power? Solar Panels can be found on TIE fighters and alternate versions such as Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced One.

2) How cost-effective is the use of solar? Solar panels have a higher collection rate in space, so as long as the tie fighter is relatively close to a sun it can generate power. The Empire has thousands and thousands of tie fighter ships and their use of solar power saves them a lot of money. Unfortunately, the main issue with The Empire and First Order’s use of solar power is that they don’t use more of it. The cost to operate the death star each day is estimated to be 6.2 Octillion. That’s $6,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. It’s easier to justify that cost when you know the solar panels are offsetting the heavy power bill attached. To their credit, I wouldn’t invest in solar power if you can’t stop a group of teenagers and a jedi-in-training from blowing up your death star, twice.

3) How realistic is the use of solar now or in the future? We aren’t going to have TIE fighters any time soon but we are already implementing solar power in space. Satellites have large solar panels to power them. In the future we may see more solar panels in space that collect energy and send it down to earth. It could also be a major part of space travel in the future.


The Walking Dead tells the story of Rick Grimes, a sheriff deputy, and his struggle to keep his family and friends alive during a zombie apocalypse. 5 seasons into the television show, Rick and his group are recruited to join a community named Alexandria. It’s surrounded by large walls (to keep undead and enemies out), has clean water, and has large solar panels that provide electricity to the homes.

Alexandria solar panels

Instead of fighting for their lives, they find themselves baking cookies and adjusting to a better life.

1) How does the television show use solar power? Alexandria has large solar panels on the ground that generate power for the neighborhood.


Carol makes cookies with solar power

2) How cost-effective is the use of solar? This is currently one of the best uses of solar power in movies or television. While the rest of the world is living without electricity, Alexandria’s residents can kick back and enjoy a comfortable life . Whatever investment they put into this community, the returns were far beyond expectations.


3) How realistic is the use of solar now or in the future? Solar power is intended to work in the real world almost exactly the way it works for Alexandria. If you purchase solar, you gain independence from electric companies and can save money immediately and in the long term.


The Ninja Turtles were extremely popular in the 90’s. Nothing is better than mutant turtle brothers that are trained in martial arts, love pizza, kick butt, and have fun doing it. In 2014, Paramount Pictures brought the turtles back to the big screen and used CGI turtles that look super scary.

Turtles love solar power
Ninja Turtle Solar Powered Car

1) How does the movie use solar power? In the latest movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, one of the turtle’s car features solar panels.

2) How cost- effective is the use of solar? If you live underground, let’s say in a sewer, and only drive your car at night then a solar powered car might not be a great idea. I don’t know what kind of solar panels Donatello put on that car but it must be pretty effective because it probably doesn’t see the sun too often. This also begs the question, how do ninja turtles afford all their gadgets and pizza?

3) How realistic is the use of solar now or in the future? Today, it would be a rare sight to view a car with solar panels on it. That kind of technology is still under development. Solar charging stations for electric cars are the best way to charge a car using solar power.

System Monitoring is included on all Installed Solar Solutions Energy Systems. CLICK the graphic to request more information.

Solar Means Business: Get the Facts: TVA’s Plan to Increase Rates on Small Business Owners While Giving Handouts to Big Industry

by the Tennessee Small Business Alliance & the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy


What’s going on?
TVA is proposing changes to our rate structure that will mean more mandatory fees and higher monthly bills for small businesses, while continuing to show preferential treatment to a small handful of large industrial customers.

What exactly are these fees?
Mandatory fees are extra charges that are being added to your monthly electricity bill. Many customers already have high mandatory fees every month and may not realize it. TVA is proposing for the first time ever a wholesale fixed charge called a “grid access fee” for sales of power to your local power company, which usually passes on higher fees to you. The fees have nothing to do with how much power you do, or do not, use. The fees are a flat charge that you owe, before you flip a switch. This extra charge is then ADDED to the normal rate you pay based on how much electricity you use that month, often resulting in an overall HIGHER bill.

How does this hurt my small business?
With TVA’s proposed changes, the average residential electricity customer could likely pay, in total, over $350/year before they even flip a switch ($29.24/month). This charge, which comes from what is called a mandatory or fixed fee, means that we are paying for energy consumption before we even open our doors for business every day. These mandatory fees limit small business owners opportunities for controlling their bills through energy efficiency and self generation investments.

And, while we don’t have full visibility on the amount of the mandatory fees for small businesses throughout the Valley due to lack of information from TVA, we have reason to believe that small businesses are seeing even higher mandatory fees than residential customers.  Recent studies show that over the past five years TVA has shifted $1.4 billion in costs from industrial to residential customers, and this proposal will continue that trend. By their actions, TVA has shown that they are blind to the fact that small businesses are the economic backbone of this state. Instead, they offer preferential treatment to a small group of large industrial customers and pass those costs down to small businesses who are simply asking for fair treatment and a level playing field.


What Can I Do About It?
Small businesses are Tennessee’s most effective job creators and drivers of the state’s economy, and TVA needs to hear from you!


Learn More
Learn more about TVA rate hikes and other clean energy issues at the southeast regional nonprofit organization, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Google Officially Hits Its 100% Renewable Energy Target

The tech giant’s renewable energy purchases met—and even exceeded—the amount of electricity used in its operations last year.

Google announced this week that it currently holds contracts to purchase 3 gigawatts of output from renewable energy projects, which is by far the most renewable energy purchased by a corporate entity to date.

The tech giant says these contracts have led to more than $3 billion in new capital investment around the world. They also allowed Google to officially achieve its 100 percent renewable energy target.

In December 2016, the company revealed it was on track to purchase enough renewable energy to match all the electricity it would consume over the next year. The 2017 numbers are now in, and it’s official — Google met its goal.

Google’s total renewable energy purchases actually exceeded the amount of electricity the company used in its operations last year, including its offices and 15 data centers located across the globe.

“Over the course of 2017, across the globe, for every kilowatt-hour of electricity we consumed, we purchased a kilowatt-hour of renewable energy from a wind orsolarfarm that was built specifically for Google,” Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure wrote in a blog post. “This makes us the first public Cloud, and company of our size, to have achieved this feat.”

Read more HERE


How much electricity does an American home use?

One in three U.S. households faced challenges in paying energy bills in 2015

methodology figure

Nearly one-third of U.S. households (31%) reported facing a challenge in paying energy bills or sustaining adequate heating and cooling in their home in 2015. According to the most recent results from EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), about one in five households reported reducing or forgoing basic necessities like food and medicine to pay an energy bill and 14% reported receiving a disconnection notice for energy service. Households may have also used less energy than they would prefer to: 11% of households surveyed reported keeping their home at an unhealthy or unsafe temperature.

The 2015 RECS asked about these and other challenges, including paying energy bills and repairing broken equipment in the home. Households experiencing these circumstances, often considered components of household energy insecurity, may be making difficult financial tradeoffs about which basic needs to fulfill.

The 2015 RECS questionnaire captured both the occurrence of household energy insecurity and the severity of household energy insecurity in 2015, measured by the frequency of energy insecure events lasting anywhere from a few weeks to most of the year. Of the 25 million households that reported forgoing food and medicine to pay energy bills, 7 million faced that decision nearly every month. Of the 17 million households who reported receiving a disconnection notice, 2 million answered that this occurred nearly every month.

Occasionally, households may lose the use of heating or air-conditioning equipment entirely. This can occur when equipment breaks and a household cannot afford to fix it, as well as when a household cannot afford fuel for their equipment. The 2015 RECS results show that seven million households (6% of the national total) experienced the inability to use heating equipment at some point in 2015 and 6 million (5%) experienced the loss of air conditioning. These issues occurred during a year when overall energy-related expenditures were at their lowest point in over a decade.

methodology figure

Only minor differences were found across geographic regions of the country and between urban and rural respondents. This suggests that a household’s ability to afford energy and maintain equipment is more related to structural features and demographic characteristics than to geography and associated climates. For instance, households that included children, who had residents that identified with a minority racial group or as Hispanic, or were low income experienced more energy insecurity. Households experiencing energy insecurity were also more likely to live in homes built before 1990.

Additional information on household energy insecurity and energy usage in all homes is available in 2015 RECS reports, tables, and a public-use microdata file.

Specific questions on this product may be directed to Chip Berry


According to the U.S. Energy Administration, “In 2016, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,766 kilowatthours (kWh), an average of 897 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual electricity consumption at 14,881 kWh per residential customer and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,061 kWh per residential customer.”

For more information on alternate forms of power your property CLICK HERE.

5 reasons you shouldn’t worry about the new solar tariffs

We’ve covered this extensively over the past few months, but it bears repeating: Homeowners have little to fear from the recently-announced tariffs that will increase the cost of newly-imported solar panels from certain foreign countries by 30% this year.

Here’s why it isn’t a big deal for homeowners:

1. The tariff increase amounts to a tiny percentage of the cost to install solar

recent study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), pegged the average costs of installing a home solar system at $2.80 per watt of generation capacity. Of that, just $.35 represents the cost of the solar panels that go into the installation. That’s a tiny fraction of the total cost.

2017 Q1 home solar costs of $2.80 per watt with module price representing $.35 per watt

Adding a 30% tariff to the cost of solar modules represents an increase of just 10.5 cents per watt, or just 3.75% of the $2.80/watt total cost. For a typical 5-kW home system, the extra 3.5% represents an additional cost of $490, which is about equal to half a year of energy savings from that system in places like CaliforniaNew YorkNew Jersey, and other good solar states.

2. Most companies aren’t going to increase costs by even that much

But that cost increase only happens if your installer decides to pass the full cost along to you, which might not be the case.

recent survey of solar installers conducted by EnergySage and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) asked whether the participants planned to raise their prices because of the tariff—and one-third of respondents said they’d either keep prices the same or lower prices to take market share from competitors.

An additional 35.6% said they’d increase prices to only partially cover the cost of the tariff.

A chart showing whether solar installers plan to increase prices ahead of the 2018 solar tariff

Image source: EnergySage

That means you’ve got a better than two-thirds chance of finding an installer with a price premium of less than 3.5% over what they’d been charging customers before the tariff. Maybe that’s because the whole industry knew the tariffs were coming and planned for it by buying up (literal) tons of cheap panels before 2018?

3. U.S. companies stockpiled solar modules ahead of the tariff

Well, you might say “China Flooded the U.S. with solar panels” ahead of the new tariff, but both statements are true.

The solar installation industry employs hundreds of thousands of people all over the country, with most of those dedicated to installing panels. The tariffs of 30% might not be high enough to affect residential solar much, but the utility sector, where cost per watt is close to $1, could see much bigger impacts.

So it’s no surprise that there are now something like 5 GW of solar panels sitting at U.S. ports, ready to be installed around the country. Those panels might last the industry a year or more, which should keep costs down for both utility-scale and residential installations. If you choose one of the largest installers like Vivint or Sunrun, chances are good that you’ll pay no more today than you would have last year.

4. The impact of the tariff is muted by solar tax credits

If you install solar panels on your home before the end of 2019, you’ll earn a federal tax credit worth 30% of the cost to install the system. The tax credit, known as the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC for short), is one of the major reasons that home solar makes sense around the country, and it’s another good reason to fear the tariff less.

So if your installer has raised prices by 3.5% because of the tariff, your cost for a 5-kW system might be $490 higher, but 30% of that increase gets wiped out by the tax credit. The difference in your cost after the credit is $367.50. That’s not so bad at all.

Considering that the tax credits will begin to sunset after 2019, the time to go solar is now, regardless of these tiny tariffs.

5. Solar has gotten cheaper since you started reading this article

Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the pace of decreases in the costs to install solar is as rapid as ever.

Take a look back at the chart in point #1, above. It shows how (adjusted for inflation), home solar installations prices have fallen from $7.24/watt in 2010 to just $2.80/watt as of the first quarter of 2017. Module prices alone have fallen by 80% since then, and while it might seem like they don’t have much lower to go, that idea’s been proven wrong before. Take a look:

Chart showing the decline of solar module prices since 2010, from $1.80 to $.35/watt in 7 years

How much longer do you think it will take Chinese manufacturers to erase that $.105/watt increase added by the tariffs? Now remember that the tariff will step down to 25% in 2019, 20% in 2020, and end after spending 2021 at 15%. Within just 1 year, the price of panels will have dropped, the tariffs will be lower, and the overall cost of a solar system will continue to fall, as it has for the past 40 years.