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Solar Power for the Barn


By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

How would you like to not only cut the cost of your electric bill to zero, but also make a little money off selling electricity each month? Horse Corner Saddles in Lebanon, Tennessee is doing just that! Horse Corner is better known for custom made saddles by Kelly Collum. But did you know that Kelly’s barn and saddle shop are powered by the sun? With help from the Tennessee Solar Institute, USDA, and Light Wave Solar, Kelly and his wife Amy were able to get solar panels on the roof to generate electricity about three years ago. They were so pleased with the results that they added more panels last year. “They make enough electricity to run everything in the barn, plus selling some electricity back to Middle Tennessee Electric,” Amy said. “We’re netting about $1,000 a year.” Does that beat paying utility bills, or what?
All the electrical outlets, lights, etc. in the barn and saddle shop are just like you would see in a conventional structure.

They are 110 volts and the solar power is enough to operate everything – the appliances, like refrigerator and TV; heating and air conditioning; and the sewing machines in the shop. They are still “on the grid,” but sell all the solar power they generate back to the electric company. Light Wave Solar of Nashville, TN installed their solar system and even helped them get grants to help pay for it. “We are very pleased with the results,” Amy said. Amy and Kelly are very environmentally conscious and try to live their lives accordingly.

As many readers may know, Kelly has been in love with horses since he was 6 years old and has done most everything there is to do around a horse. He was a professional farrier for 17 years; he learned the best training methods from the best horsemen in the world, like Bill Dorrance and Ray Hunt; and he learned saddle making, attending workshops with master saddle builders and leather workers. He also trains cutting horses and has developed a cutting horse training tool. He teaches riding lessons, too, and one of his most recognizable students was the actor Will Chase, who played “Luke” on the TV show “Nashville,” whom Kelly trained to ride.

Amy says Kelly “is an all around horse guy who likes to help people with their horses.” In doing so, they offer horse clinics with Buster and Sheryl McLaury, who teach in the Ray Hunt tradition. Their next clinic is coming up April 16-19, 2015. Find out more about Kelly Saddles and the clinic at:

Light Wave Solar. Bob Bomar, CFO at Light Wave Solar in Nashville, TN explained how solar power works and what is entailed in getting solar panels installed and hooked up to the electricity grid.

“One of the first things we do is get an accurate estimate of how much electricity could be generated. We use Google Earth to look at the structure, whether it be a barn or a home, and we look at the orientation of the buildings. A southern or west facing structure is ideal for the mid-south’s latitude and longitude. We also consider shading, e.g., trees, around the structure. Then based on information from the Department of Energy, we can estimate the number of Kilowatts a system could generate, with a +/– 2% margin of error. Then we put together a recovery of investment analysis,” Bomar explained.

There is an investment tax credit for solar energy (see and Tennessee residents can get credit on their electric bill from TVA through their local power distributor.

Green Power Switch. No doubt you have seen solicitations from your local power distributor for contributions to TVA’s Green Power Switch program (see Bomar had information about how this program works. “For customers who want to support all of TVA’s renewable – solar, wind, and hydroelectric dams – vs. their coal-fired power plants, the customer adds a particular amount of money to their electric bill to be used to buy power from TVA’s ‘renewable energy assets.’ TVA buys electricity from owners of renewable energy, like Kelly and Amy.”

If you are considering adding solar panels to your home or barn, the folks at Light Wave Solar “can provide a detailed cost-benefit analysis free, no obligation,” Bomar said. They will determine the costs, how much time it will take to recover the initials costs of installation, and how much power generation the array can produce. “For a residence, the payback period is 8-11 years,” Bomar said. “For a business or farm, it’s 4-7 years because there are advantages in the federal tax code for businesses, not homeowners. Business can depreciate the assets and offset their income taxes.

“The useful life of assets is 25-35 years,” Bomar continued. “For any system installed on or before December 31, 2016 and placed in service, there is a 30% investment federal tax credit. This originally came from the 2007 economic stimulus package and is scheduled to expire in 2016; but there are proposals to extend it or bring down the credit to zero over a longer period of time.”

Grants. Bomar said that there are grants available through USDA for up to 25% of the cost of the system. Homeowners get “capacity” allotted through TVA programs and TVA is now open for 2015 applications. But he says these slots fill quickly, so it is better to apply early in the year.

Installation. Bomar recommends that Tennessee residents use locally owned solar contractors; there are two, one in Memphis and one in Knoxville, in addition to his company in Nashville. These contractors can help home owners understand the solar power system, how to apply for TVA capacity, can place the solar array in service, and provide a 12-month “bumper to bumper” warranty. “You want a licensed electrician to install the system, i.e., NABCEP certified electricians (see,” he said.

There will then be two meters: one incoming from the local power company and one outgoing, measuring the solar power generated to the grid. “The owner of the solar power array is not necessarily using power generated on his own property,” Bomar said. “But he is selling it to TVA on the grid.”

Bomar said there are new and emerging ways to install solar: on the roof; a ground mount system; and a solar parking canopy that can be utilized for shade and to park equipment underneath.

To talk to a solar consultant, contact Light Wave Solar at their Antioch, TN base office: 615-641-4050. Kelly and Amy are glad they did! Find more information at:

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