For decades, this predominantly African American community located in northwestern Nashville has been home to many working- and middle-class families. The Bordeaux community is also home to independent and family-owned businesses. Jason Carney, founder of Energy Electives, president of the Tennessee Solar Energy Association, and board member of Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, found that just as national data shows, even when income levels are the same, African-Americans homeowners don’t benefit from solar power as much as others.
With local, statewide, and international partners to obtain funding and equipment, Energy Electives solicited a volunteer household in Bordeaux to install a 7-kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic solar energy collection, storage and monitoring system to determine whether an intentional installation can help encourage others to adopt solar. Organizer and community gardener Ms. Frierson enthusiastically offered her home as a showcase.
Starting in the spring of 2021, Jason and his construction partner, Sidney Tolbert Construction, installed an 18-panel solar array on the roof of Ms. Frierson’s home. The solar PV equipment, donated by BayWa-r.e. renewable energy, and installed by Energy Electives, comes at no cost to the homeowner. As there is little incentive from TVA and the local utility to purchase excess power generation, Energy Electives employed a 10-kWh lithium-ion battery storage system to store solar energy generated during the day to use stored power during the evening. The energy monitoring system, purchased with funding from Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, will allow Ms. Frierson to check on the condition of her home and the power generated and consumed.
The total cost of this project is in the $50,000 range for materials and labor. The typical single-family household in Tennessee would need about 13-15 kW of solar panels to completely cover their electric bill. This includes a payback period around 15 years after current federal incentives. Although solar panel warranties last well beyond the simple payback period, Jason (shown right, next to the power inverter and battery bank) believes more projects like this would be encouraged by better policies and incentives at all levels of government. This would also provide tangible, long term solutions to employment, environment, health and security. Already Ms. Frierson’s neighbors are beginning to get curious and enthused about solar energy.