Solar Workshop

An example of a firm using solar energy is the 200 solar panels  atop the Nova Copy facility in Memphis. A Nashville-based firm will hold a workshop Friday in Southaven, hoping to grow solar usage in DeSoto County.  

Courtesy photo

An executive with a Nashville, Tenn.-based company promoting solar power believes investing in solar energy has become an option more businesses are looking at. 

Marketing executive Brian Bickel with Lightwave Solar is part of a group holding a workshop in Southaven Friday morning to answer business questions about the power option.

A Solar Workshop for Businesses will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Servpro Training Center, 1160 Stateline Road East in Southaven. It is being held by a company called Lightwave Solar.

Bickel stated there are only a few sites in DeSoto County where solar energy is being used at this time.

“We are aware that there are probably in the neighborhood of 20 total sites,” Bickel said. “Those could be small residential systems all the way up to a fairly decent-sized commercial array. The average size is 16 kilowatts, which is very small, considering the opportunity of up to three megawatts of net-metered power per site.”

Net metering is where a utility may compensate a customer for power it produces from its solar array that is connected to the grid. Mississippi passed a law a number of years ago that allows for net metering to occur. State Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, representing North Mississippi, has been is a proponent of net metering.

Bickel said customers who use solar energy can use net metering as a means of saving money on their power bill.

“Anybody that puts solar on their rooftop is able to acquire the same value for what they generate as what they pay at a retail level,” Bickel said. “That creates a unique opportunity in some areas of Mississippi to really maximize the financial benefits of having solar attached to their building or business.”

The net metering option is available to DeSoto County customers of Entergy, however customers of Northcentral Electric Power Association do not have that option.

Michael Bellipanni, representing Northcentral, states that since the power cooperative receives its power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal entity, they are not allowed to offer net metering.

“True net metering is when the utility purchases the power generated by its customer and applies a credit to their bill, offsetting the cost of the power used during that month,” said Bellipanni. “Most TVA distributors, like Northcentral, have provisions in our contracts that require us to purchase power solely through TVA. A true net metering agreement with our member would violate those provisions. TVA's solar programs are designed so that we can all promote renewable energy without violating our contracts.”

That does not mean solar energy is completely unavailable to Northcentral customers, Bellipanni pointed out.

“Northcentral is a participant in TVA's Green Power Providers program, which allows our members to sell renewable energy that they generate back to TVA,” said Bellipanni. “This shows as a credit on their Northcentral bill that TVA passes through us to our member. Any excess generation, meaning when the member produces more power than they used, is paid to them by a check from TVA.”

Bellipanni said six Northcentral members currently take advantage of that program.

Bickel said while there are only a few customers using solar energy in DeSoto County, there is a growing interest in it.

“The thing about solar is that it operates differently in markets all over the country,” Bickel said. “There’s not one consistent value proposition for everybody in the U.S. that might look at solar.”

In addition to net metering, Bickel said there are tax credits available for additional savings, which will be detailed at Friday’s workshop.

“There’s an ongoing 30 percent federal tax credit that is going to be good, at least through the end of next year,” Bickel said. “We’re not sure what is going to happen after that, but the schedule is to have that 30 percent begin to diminish over successive years beyond 2019. As long as they have a tax liability that’s equal to or greater than 30 percent of the cost of their installed solar array, they can write that off in a single year.”

For more information, interested people may contact Lightwave Solar at 877-748-1260 or email

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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