“I always liked solar because I liked the idea of making your own electricity,” Johnson says. “Something captivated me about the whole concept. Why wouldn’t you want to do that if you could?”
LightWave Solar is the largest solar installer in Tennessee and has seen steady growth for the past three years. From 2008-2011, the company has grown 760% and added more than 30 employees. The company covers the entire state and focuses on 90% commercial and 10% residential installations.
Tennessee was involved last month in something of a controversy over its solar industry, as the Tennessee legislature was working on a bill that would have raised taxes on the industry more than 6,000%. Fortunately, the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA) negotiated with the legislature to pull the legislation for the balance of 2012. The expectation is that a compromise bill will be brought up during the 2013 legislative session.
Johnson, who serves as the vice president of TenneSEIA, is concerned about where the industry, which employs 6,000 in the state, is.
“It’s hard to tell, but it would be a bad idea to cut it off at this point,” Johnson says. “We have a diverse number of companies who have relocated their solar businesses here.
“But the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are cutting back incentives, there are no state incentives to speak of,” he continues. “We keep making the argument that all utilities are subsidized — why not ours? Hopefully, we have enough of a market penetration to stay strong.”
Johnson does believe the public is on the side of continuing Tennessee’s explosive growth in the solar industry.
“We’d like to see it continue,” Johnson says. “People are starting to see solar as the gift that keeps on giving — and that’s good for everybody.” SPW
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