A proposal moving forward in the Metro Council would push Nashville’s government toward getting all of its power from renewable energy sources by 2041.
And at least 10% of that would come from solar.
Nashville Electric Service currently has 17,000 black solar panels in Madison, as part of its Music City Solar program. Residents can purchase a subscription to add clean energy to Nashville's power supply, in exchange for getting a credit on their energy bills.
Right now, Music City Solar has 2 megawatts of power, which could cover about 300 homes if it runs at capacity, according to estimates by the Solar Energy Industries Association. But councilmember Freddie O’Connell wants NES to provide even more solar capacity.
That would mean convincing NES to develop more, he said. And to do that, he wants to make Metro Government a subscriber of last resort.
"For every block of power that’s not subscribed to by a member of the general public, Metro can backfill that," said O'Connell.
This extra solar energy, he proposes, would power government buildings.
This idea is part of a package of legislation that's already passed through first reading in Metro Council. The other bills would also have Metro invest in zero-emission vehicles and green building design.
O’Connell says this package won’t be an immediate burden to tax-payers, but he doesn't yet have an estimate on cost.
"We didn’t want to have a sudden new cost to Metro. We wanted to have a very gradual thing that could be structured into every budget over the next 25 years," said O'Connell.
He also says the price of renewables will go down over time, which will make this more cost-effective.
But there's still a question of whether this plan would work.
Sylvia Smith of Nashville Electric Service says adding more solar depends on its power provider, Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA currently caps how much of solar energy it distributes across its service area.
"We do have our contract we have to go through with TVA, and sometimes those can be some challenges," said Smith.
The utility says it plans on getting more, but some environmentalists say it's not a firm promise.
But Smith says if the demand really increases, the utility will ask TVA to bring more solar. TVA officials said in an email they look forward to partnering with the city of Nashville.
It’s still unclear, however, whether TVA will agree to provide enough solar that would meet O’Connell’s longterm 10% goal.